Flanked by Mr. Met outside Citi Field Wednesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed how proud he was of the new "mass" vaccination site opening at the stadium, which is currently targeting taxi drivers, restaurant workers, and eligible Queens residents.

“Build it, and they will come!” de Blasio proclaimed.

Meanwhile, many of those who arrived on opening day were getting turned away.

Citi Field only had 200 appointments available on Wednesday, but dozens of people went to the stadium who either didn’t know they needed an appointment or had tried unsuccessfully to book one ahead of time. Staff stationed outside the entrance told would-be vaccine recipients they weren’t able to book appointments onsite.

I came here to protect myself...Please, vaccinate us!
Hernando Cerro, 65-year-old taxi driver

Hernando Cerro stood in the parking lot, commiserating with fellow taxi drivers in Spanish after failing to get vaccinated. He said he tried several times to register for an appointment online and over the phone over recent weeks. Then he saw on NY1 that taxi drivers could get vaccinated at Citi Field, so he took off from work to get the shot.

“I am over 65, I work in a profession where I pick up passengers all day, I can get infected at any moment, and I came here to protect myself,” Cerro said. “Please, vaccinate us!”

Victor Barahona, 70, also heard about the Citi Field vaccine hub on TV and didn’t realize he needed an appointment. Barahona traveled from Long Island, where he is currently staying in a shelter. He said he is a taxi driver but stopped working at the start of the pandemic because he thought it was too dangerous. He lost his housing as a result. Barahona says he will start working again once he’s able to get vaccinated.

Many of those who showed up spoke Spanish or Chinese. Asked if someone was available to help a man who spoke Chinese, a staff member told Gothamist he could use an interpreter service on his phone. Spanish speakers were available on staff.

A health care worker with NYC Health + Hospitals Corporation (second from right) turns a Queens resident away for lack of an appointment at a COVID-19 vaccination site at Citi Field.

During the opening ceremony, Mayor de Blasio said people who arrive without notice could be aided by “navigators” that could help book future appointments. But a staff member at the site contradicted this claim, saying that they did not have access to the appointment booking system.

“You can’t just come here and walk in. You have to have an appointment in advance. We don’t want lines of people. That’s not safe,” de Blasio said. As Gothamist reported last month, the option of getting an on-site appointment was available at the Fort Washington Armory, a major vaccination site run by NewYork-Presbyterian in Washington Heights.

On Thursday, the mayor’s office reiterated to Gothamist that navigators had been present on opening day and claimed they had access to the appointment system. But his office said the staff could have only made bookings on-site if slots had been available, which would have required more doses.

Some of those who tried to make an appointment over the phone said they waited on hold for upwards of half an hour, went through a lengthy screening process, and only afterward were told that none were available.

Roberto Morales, a Queens resident who delivers food for Uber Eats, said he called the city’s vaccination hotline five times on Monday and waited on hold for about 45 minutes each time before finally getting an appointment for Citi Field on Wednesday morning.

I just walked out, and I said, ‘Hallelujah.’
John Greer, a Queens resident vaccinated on Citi Field's opening day

Some who got vaccinated Wednesday said they had an easier time. Yellow cab driver Kim Chung said the city Taxi & Limousine Commission called him to ask if he wanted an appointment and set it up for him.

“Thank you, TLC,” said Chung. “I tried [to make an appointment for myself] online, I tried to call. Too many times.”

John Greer, a Queens resident who got vaccinated Wednesday, said the process was smooth once he got inside. “I just walked out, and I said, ‘Hallelujah,’ just spontaneously,” Greer said. “It’s been a long, dark tunnel we’ve been in here.”

The city plans to increase the number of appointments available at Citi Field to 4,000 per week starting next week, but de Blasio said Wednesday that capacity is still limited by the vaccine supply, which is regulated by the state and the Biden administration.

“If we had enough vaccine supply, we would be doing 5,000 doses a day here at Citi Field,” de Blasio said. “We would be able to protect tens of thousands of people each week here at Citi Field.”

Here's more information about getting a vaccine in NYC and NY State; you can also call 1-877-VAX-4NYC or 1-833-NYS-4-VAX.

Editor's note: This story was updated with an additional comment from the mayor's office.