Brewer’s Mask and Test Give-Away Runs Out Before It’s Scheduled to Begin; ‘I’m So Terribly Sorry’

Cal Snyder and Gale Brewer. Photographs by Jeff French Segall.

By Jeff French Segall

City Council Member Gale Brewer had announced that at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, her office would start distributing KN95 masks and test kits at her Columbus Avenue office, between 87th and 88th Streets. By the time this reporter arrived at 4:45PM, the distribution had already begun. Brewer, her husband Cal Snyder, and Rosalba Rodríguez, her District Office Director, quickly and efficiently prepared and handed out bag after bag of protective materials.

The line was long and within five minutes had stretched back and turned the corner onto West 88th Street. The temperature was 27 degrees and Councilmember Brewer and her two helpers, noting how those waiting on line were shivering in the cold, had decided to begin the distribution early.

Each person received a blue bag filled with a test kit, a sack of masks and some literature. There seemed to have been upwards of 200 people on line, and by 5 p.m. the supply of test kits had been exhausted. As she apologized, Gale told constituents that they’d given out more than a thousand test kits, and that some people requested and had been given more than just one test kit. The distribution of masks went on for about ten minutes longer, until they, too, were gone.

Gale was extremely apologetic to all those who had to leave empty-handed. “I’m so sorry. So terribly sorry. We’ll do this again in a month, and I’m going to ask for many more test kits and masks. So sorry that there weren’t more.”  Even those who came too late thanked her for all her hard work and some said that they’d be sure to come earlier next time.

On Thursday, we received the following statement from Councilmember Brewer:

The response to our KN95 mask and test kit giveaway on January 26 was overwhelming. In fact, we ran out of PPE within 15 minutes. And due to a line that stretched down the block and the frigid temperature, we began distribution at 4:45pm. I apologize to all those who were unable to get their supply. For everyone we disappointed, we will provide them with the same PPE if they send us their name and address. We are doing so for those who gave us contact information. And as long as city and state government entities send us new supplies, and Covid continues, we will conduct distribution events on a monthly basis. If you need assistance with this or other issues, we are reachable at 212-873-0282 or Please also sign up for our newsletter if you are not already on the list.


NEWS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Mark Moore says:

      What a great patchwork healthcare system we have here. It’s like they’re lined up for toilet paper in East Germany. In any other western democracy you’d walk into a government-run clinic and walk out with whatever you needed to manage the pandemic.

      • Ken says:

        @MarkMoore You nailed it! In some first-world nations, they even MAIL you tests, as many as you need. First we dismantled our public health system years ago, then we waited nearly two years after the pandemic’s start to ramp up testing capacity and suggest people might want to wear a mask that’s actually protective.

      • UWSwede says:

        No, you don’t. I grow up in Sweden and came to NYC in 1996. Still have family in Sweden. Visited this holiday. In Sweden, there are no free tests, no free PPE. Only if you have severe symptoms you will get tested by the government-run clinic (after paying co-pay). If you want PPE or a home test kit, you have to buy it for your own money in the pharmacy (if you can find one with inventory). If you want to get tested out of care for your family, colleagues, or your own health, you pay for it at a private clinic without getting reimbursed.

        Most of the European countries work the same way as Sweden.

        While there is obviously much that could be better with our healthcare system (not intending to start that debate…), the response to COVID-19 has been amazing in terms of free testing, availability of vaccines early and easily, and now we are even getting free home tests and PPE.

        Just saying, healthcare is not always greener on the other side of the pond…

        • UWSwede-

          NO! Say it ain’t so! Are you really saying we’ve all been sold a bill of goods about the social democratic paradise that’s supposed to be Scandinavia?!

          What about free college, light work, early pensions & fountains of hot & cold coffee flowing free in the public parks?

          If none of that is true either, then at least have the decency not to let Bernie know… separating a man from his illusions that all-encompassing might just make the poor fellow faint dead away, banging his head in the process…

        • Mark Moore says:

          Good to know thanks.

    2. Becky says:

      People can request test kits from They will come by mail. Masks, I don’t know, but they are supposed to be available in grocery stores and pharmacies.

      • Jamory says:

        Not if you live in an apartment house, as a few of us do. You get the message that “tests have already been ordered for this address.” No sign of any fix. I’m really angry about this.

        • Lorraine says:

          For the apartment issue, did you try including your apartment number on the first line? That is supposed to resolve it.

        • Filatura says:

          I live in an apartment house and got a confirmation of my order as soon as I placed it. (No delivery yet, though.) Admittedly, I placed the order the day before the government site went live, during its ‘soft launch,’ so maybe I was the first in my building to respond. Must check with neighbors to see if they had problems.

    3. nycityny says:

      Meantime, there seems to be pop-up testing tents at every major intersection on the UWS. The staff sits there with nothing to do as few are partaking of these sites. Today I saw two tents at the 72nd 1-2-3 subway station – one north of 72nd St and one south.

      • Liz G says:

        Second this nycityny, for those who don’t know, these tents are FREE (they will ask for your insurance and, should you choose to provide it, they will attempt to bill them, but if they fail to pay the city covers it and it’s still free)… now that omicron is tapering and the holidays are over, you can walk up to one and be done in 5 minutes, and have results in 20.. I just did it. They’re great! Plus I believe these results are factored into the city’s daily positivity rate. I get that it’s still nice to have a supply of tests at home in case some proof is needed unexpectedly too.

    4. SadforUWS says:

      I love the dysfunction. Go UWS!

      • EdNY says:

        I don’t see what’s dysfuntional about it. They said they would give out masks & test kits; people lined up; they gave out masks & test kits. 1,000 is a pretty decent amount. Dysfunction would have been if they had promised 2,000 or promised everyone would get one regardless of when they got on line or if the people waiting had become unruly or boisterous. Maybe our patchwork healthcare system is dysfuntional (although I have no personal complaints) but that’s not about the UWS.

    5. Glad to be double vaxed and boosted says:

      1000 tests in 15 minutes = 67 tests per minute = more than 1 test per second. Are we really to believe this pace? According to the article, they were bagging as they went. Even if someone asked for more than one test, it takes longer than 1 second to make that request. The only way this math works is if a handful of people received a massive number of tests.

      • S says:

        Article clearly states that some were given more than one test kit. It should be one test kit per person regardless. If should be one test kit from the outset and one test kit per person regardless of what requested.

    6. James brummel says:

      publicity stunt. they don’t have staff?

    7. What’s the truth of that currently circulating story about free K95 masks from various though unnamed area pharmacies?

      Is there any substance to this rumor or is it just one more chimera?

      (chimera- “a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve” -Oxford)

    8. Joan Fishbein says:

      An extremely small number of masks and other protective items are being given out to an extremely large number of people. Good intentions. Not very practical. Same with President Biden’s plan. Better than nothing but not much and won’t do much. Where are the planners?We need creative manufacturers in the USA.

    9. Heather H says:

      I have no idea why she was elected to this office again.