Among the sad stories of hundreds of thousands New Yorkers affected by the dramatic, coronavirus-induced economic downturn and surging spike in unemployment are that of a restaurant manager, waitress and arborist.
David Veda, 58, General manager, Tavola Della Nonna, Upper West Side
Veda was making $90,000 a year at Italian restaurant Tavola Della Nonna. Losing his job means he can’t support his wife, Mira, 52, his 17-year-old daughter, who is recovering from a 102-degree fever, and his 22-year-old son. He has $350 in the bank and a $3,000-a-month rent due on his two-bedroom apartment in Rego Park, Queens.
“I have tried to get unemployment for three days in a row. The website crashes and then they want you to call in order to complete your application — and good luck with that. I haven’t been able to reach anyone at that number. There is a busy signal or a recording that the call volume is too great.
“I don’t think we’ll ever go back to where we were, for sure. We will phase back in. We will cure the disease, some will go back to work, but movie theaters, sports arenas, restaurants will not open right away. For restaurants, it will be months before full blast, and there will be businesses that will never reopen because they are on the edge.
“We just have to come to that realization, and the longer we wait, the worse it will get. Shutting down the country, it’s just a fact. The government can’t be our father and mother. We can’t be on their nipple forever.”
Kryshana De Herrera, 29, waiter, Bushwick
De Herrera, who has been working in the restaurant industry since she was a teen, has been let go from Bâtard in Tribeca, where her front-waiter job paid about $1,500 a week, and from One Hotel, where she made $2,000 a week as a cocktail waitress and chalk-sign maker. Her rent is $1,040. She lives with two roommates, total rent $3,200. She intends to file for unemployment but is unsure she qualifies as an independent contractor.
“I have a very impressive résumé because I have a passion for food and for people and for feeding people.
“Right now I have $100 in the bank and a couple of checks coming. I have about $2,200 coming in the mail.
“I’ve tried to get through [to the state unemployment Web site]. I try once a day in the morning but I haven’t gotten through. It hangs up on me after one ring. I don’t have time to get frustrated right now, but I hope to file. I hope to get something.”
“It’s an endless cycle, and right now we’re being told and reminded how undervalued we are, and how little we have to support us.”
“Financially I”m OK right now. My family is helping me.”
Robert Shapiro, 63, Arborist, West Village
Shapiro was making $200 a day for Branching Out Tree Services, a city subcontractor. He is also an animal rescuer and state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
“For six years, I was supervising construction crews that were doing construction around trees to prevent tree damage, and scoping out suitable places for spring tree planting, all for the city Department of Design and Construction. When that job ended recently, there was just no work for me, and I can’t get another job.
“Now my job each day is trying to get unemployment benefits. I try every f–king day — quote me!. When I call, the voice system tells me I’ve completed my application. Then it says hold for an agent. Then it says no agents are available, call back tomorrow. And then, click. It doesn’t give you any information, any place to go.
“Every single day. I call different times of day, no difference. Online it’s the same thing. It just crashes. “I have a small cushion to last a while. I’m cutting corners.”