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Spotlight Is on the Mayoral Candidates

Weather: Sunny, with a high close to 70.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended today for Solemnity of the Ascension and Eid al-Fitr.

They’ve been overshadowed by the pandemic and national politics. But now it’s their turn in the spotlight.

This evening, Democratic candidates in New York City’s mayoral race will convene virtually for the first of three official primary debates. For weeks, they have pored over policy briefings, huddled with advisers and held full-on mock sessions in preparation.

The debate, co-hosted by Spectrum News NY1, will serve as one of the clearest opportunities to date for voters to become acquainted with the candidates and their ideas.

And with less than six weeks before the June 22 Democratic primary, it represents the best chance yet for candidates who have struggled to break out the pack to distinguish themselves.

[Read more from my colleague Katie Glueck about what tonight’s debate may hold, and get some tips on how to watch it.]

Here are a few things to know:

The debate will air from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight and be broadcast on NY1 and WNYC.

Eight Democratic candidates are set to participate: Andrew Yang, Eric Adams, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales, Shaun Donovan and Raymond J. McGuire.

[Need a refresher on who is competing? Here are the candidates.]

New York is at an inflection point: Economic uncertainty has persisted, the pandemic has laid bare deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities, and vaccinations have raised hopes of a return to prepandemic life.

The candidates will aim to convince voters that their vision for the city’s recovery is the best one. The debate will take place less than a week after a shooting in Times Square that garnered widespread attention, and both public safety and police power are almost certain to arise as contentious topics.

The event comes as Mr. Yang navigates controversy tied to a recent statement of unqualified support for Israel. He has since sought to modulate those remarks amid an outcry on the left and pushback from some of his own volunteers, as the crisis between Israelis and Palestinians has worsened.

Then there is the contest for the left wing of the Democrats. Mr. Stringer appeared to be on the cusp of getting progressive organizations to coalesce around his campaign before he was accused of sexual misconduct. (He has strongly denied the allegations.)

Ms. Wiley and Ms. Morales will make their case to progressive organizations and voters to back them instead.

A small wooden box on 116th Street in Harlem is painted bright yellow and hard to miss. The message on its vibrant blue door stands out even more: “Black, Indigenous and people of color authors only.”

The stand, which sits between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue, is an Amplify Library, part of a number of mini-bookstalls in New York City where people can drop off and pick up books for free. But the stories must be written by writers who have traditionally been marginalized, with a focus on Black voices in particular.

The project’s co-founders, Virginia Polik and Jessica Nelson, said they were inspired to create the kiosks last summer, as thousands across the city marched on the streets following the murder of George Floyd. Ms. Polik worked with people who are immunocompromised and feared that joining the protests could lead to a coronavirus infection. Ms. Nelson felt overwhelmed and dispirited, and was searching for an outlet.

Demand for books about race and antiracism was surging, and the two decided to share those resources — before expanding their focus to include a wide breadth of selections.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t only have antiracist readings,” Ms. Nelson, 24, said, adding that many of the types of books inside the boxes were ones she had never been exposed to in schools. “Black poetry, Black fiction, whatever the topic is — it’s just to find that coming from a voice that is different and not just what they’ve read before,” she said.

Ms. Polik began crafting the stands, and in September, the two set up their first one in Chinatown. There are now five, including the one in Harlem. The others are in Sunnyside, Queens, near 44th Street and Barnett Avenue; in Bushwick, Brooklyn, outside Mil Mundos Books and Cafe on Linden Street; and in Jackson Heights, Queens, alongside a community fridge on 80th Street.

Featured books include “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “Code Talker” by Joseph Bruchac. At each spot, the two women have partnered with community-based organizations — like the bookstore in Bushwick — which help restock them and ensure donations fit their mission.

The Amplify Library co-founders plan to put up a few more stands in New York, including in the Bronx, and have gained interest from people in other states who hope to erect them in their own communities.

“I hope that people look inside and find representation for themselves,” Ms. Polik, 24, said. “Storytelling allows people to feel heard, to feel like they’re not alone. And I hope someone goes in and finds that.”

It’s Thursday — try something new.

Dear Diary:

On an icy cold day a few years ago, my husband took a bad fall on the Brooklyn College campus. He was taken to Kings County Hospital, where I found him on a gurney in an overcrowded room when I arrived.

Very close by was an older woman who had also been injured. There was a younger woman with her who appeared to be her niece. We couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. The older woman did not speak English, and the younger woman would translate when the doctors and nurses asked questions.

After a few hours, the younger woman had to leave and the older woman was on her own. At one point, when a doctor had some questions for her, someone brought a telephone to her bedside and got an interpreter on the line.

Eventually, my husband was allowed to leave. By this time, there were visible bruises on his arms and legs. After getting out of bed gingerly, he got dressed, but his winter coat was hanging open.

As we passed the older woman’s bed on our way out, she beckoned my husband over. He stopped and bent down to hear what she was saying.

She didn’t say a word. Instead, she motioned for him to come closer. Still not speaking, she managed to sit up enough to reach for his coat and carefully button it up.

— Mikki Shaw

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