Park Slope civic leaders demand more walk-in COVID-19 testing centers

Drive through testing site for Coronavirus at 2307 Bevelry Road
The recently-opened drive-through testing site in the Sears parking lot in Flatbush.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

As drive-through coronavirus testing sites continue to crop up across the city, a group of Park Slope civic leaders are calling on the mayor to open more facilities for New Yorkers who don’t have cars — an estimated 55 percent of city households.

“We need a policy that allows people without access to cars to be tested at the same rate as car owners, and the sooner it is implemented the better,” wrote Community Board 6 Chairman Peter Fleming and Transportation Committee Chairman Eric McClure in an April 15 letter. “We urge City Hall and all relevant agencies to move as quickly as possible to implement a means of testing that isn’t car-dependent.”

The city plans to open its first five testing facilities that aren’t at a public hospital this week — one in East New York and four others in black and hispanic neighborhoods in each of the other boroughs, communities which have disproportionately been affected by the respiratory illness, according to reports.

At his Thursday press briefing, de Blasio declined to reveal any plans for testing sites beyond that, citing the ongoing shortage of test kits, personal protective equipment, and medical staff. He said the city should focus on those who need it most, including people in life-threatening conditions, healthcare workers, first responders, and the communities hardest hit by the virus.

“The notion of people saying, ‘Hey I just want to make it really easy to get testing in my own community.’ I get that 100 percent why people feel that,” he said. “We’ve got to do something more strategic than that.”

The mayor did hint that his office plans to reveal more information on testing once supplies start to increase in the coming weeks, when he anticipates the city to start making its own testing kits in addition to buying hundreds of thousands from an out-of-state diagnostics company and ramping up production of protective equipment in the city.

“I’ll have more to say on that as testing supplies start to increase, but I want people to think about this as strategic, this is about how we end this crisis, not so much just you go some place and you get a test that tells you at one point in time how you’re doing,” he said. 

The state has opened several drive-through testing sites since mid-March, including most recently in the parking lot of Sears on Beverly Road in Flatbush and Albany officials plan to unveil a walk-in facility in Brownsville some time this week.

Earlier this week, staff at the Flatbush facility turned away people without cars, even telling some to hop in an Uber in order to get tested, Streetsblog reported.

It is currently unclear where or on what day the state Brownsville facility will open and press offices for both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health did not immediately return a request for comment.

De Blasio previously said that the city facilities would be coming to existing Health + Hospital outposts and the only such location in East New York is Gotham Health on Pitkin and Pennsylvania avenues. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about its location or when it would start testing, but Hizzoner indicated at his Thursday briefing that “some of the sites” in the five boroughs would open on April 17. 

“We’ll have sites up, starting tomorrow, some of the sites I’ve talked about in some of the most hard-hit communities,” he said.