Mayoral hopeful Scott Stringer is proposing to jolt the city's recovery with a $50 million plan that would give transit and small business vouchers to all vaccinated New Yorkers.
Dubbed "VaxPacks," the program could include redeemable vouchers for a two-trip MetroCard; $20 to use at local New York City restaurants and other small businesses; and admission to movie theaters, museums or other cultural venues.
"By offering free VaxPacks to vaccinated New Yorkers, we are injecting much needed stimulus into our local economy," Stringer said in a press release previewed by Gothamist. "It’s time to think creatively and outside-the-box to deliver a safe and successful reopening with an equitable recovery."
Stringer said that VaxPacks could be distributed after an individual's final vaccine dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at city-run vaccination sites. If elected mayor, he would call for the vouchers to be reimbursed only at locally-owned restaurants and small businesses.
As the weather warms and the number of vaccinated residents grows, several of the leading mayoral candidates have released ideas or plans to revitalize arts and culture in New York City. Last month, Andrew Yang proposed having a free week of subway rides beginning on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. (The MTA later shot down the idea.)
Unlike Yang's plan, Stringer has said that the city would reimburse the MTA for the transit vouchers used under the VaxPacks program.
Shaun Donovan last week released a lengthy list of proposals to help the arts sector, including an initiative to allow empty commercial spaces and open spaces to be used by visual and performing artists. Meanwhile, Kathryn Garcia has proposed having public spaces serve as "pop up dinners, theater performances, installations and commercial markets."
Beginning last Friday, performing arts groups in New York state were permitted to hold shows with audiences at 33 percent capacity, with a maximum of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors. But smaller audiences make large-scale productions, like those on Broadway, economically infeasible. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that the state would produce 1,000 free events by Labor Day to help resuscitate the arts and culture community. And Mayor Bill de Blasio last month announced that the city would begin special vaccination sites for Broadway workers in hopes of having theaters reopen in the fall.
Under a separate economic recovery plan, Stringer has also said he would revitalize Broadway by having the city purchase 250,000 theater tickets and distribute them to frontline workers as well as students and families.
Stringer's VaxPacks idea is one of many that mayoral contenders have been pitching as they try to woo voters. But it’s unclear whether such proposals will be necessary or feasible when the next mayor takes office in 2022.