Working with New Yorkers to Build Back from COVID-19

Schmidt Futures
5 min readMar 31, 2021

This week, the Reimagine New York Commission — a group of 16 leaders convened by the State of New York and chaired by Schmidt Futures Co-Founder Eric Schmidt — released its final report, Action Plan for a Reimagined New York.

Focused on three critical areas — connectivity, telehealth, and work — the Commission is advancing 21 actionable recommendations, the majority of which are already being implemented by the State and external partners.

These policy proposals and initiatives were developed alongside New Yorkers. The Commission held more than 40 listening sessions, community conversations, and roundtables with residents across the state; conducted hundreds of interviews with community leaders, advocates, and experts; and administered three surveys that engaged thousands of New Yorkers.

Below are just a few of the many New Yorkers from whom the Commission heard, and whose perspectives helped the Commission develop initiatives to reduce the digital divide, improve access to healthcare, and create more and better employment in an increasingly digital economy.

Telehealth and Improving Access to Quality Healthcare

Carolyn English, Lower East Side, New York City

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure to improve access to telehealth care for seniors in my community. As a volunteer Community Nurse, I am making an effort to increase intergenerational communication to help seniors navigate technology so they can better meet their health needs.”

During the pandemic, community nurse Carolyn English set up a telehealth computer lab in her building, where she recruited young people to help senior residents access remote healthcare.

Dr. Jamie Loehr, Ithaca

“If insurance pays less for a telehealth visit, it would not make sense for my office to offer telehealth on an equal footing with in-person visits in the office. Talking is sometimes the most important part of the visit, so telehealth is the most efficient way to serve the patient. I would trust the provider to recognize when an in-person visit is necessary.”

Dr. Jamie Loehr is a family physician in Ithaca. He is also the Chairperson of the Primary Care Operations and Care Management Committee for Cayuga Health Partners.

Work and Expanding Opportunity in a Digital Economy

Annmarie Lanesey, Albany

“In today’s rapidly expanding online and on-demand world — and amid its growing impact on nearly every aspect of society, from education and the economy to workforce development and community engagement — building a digital and data literate workforce is an imperative. There is immense talent, aptitude and potential hidden in underserved individuals throughout our communities, and by helping more people prepare for jobs in high tech, we can shift the mindset about who can work in technology, open the doors to lucrative career opportunities, and truly change lives.”

Annmarie Lanesey is the founder and CEO of Albany Can Code, a nonprofit working to build a more inclusive and vibrant tech talent pipeline and tech sector workforce in New York’s Capital Region and across the state.

Dawn Kelly, Jamaica, Queens

“Small business owners are facing myriad challenges right now. First the basics — meeting rent, salaries, utilities, taxes, insurance and vendor demands — and then navigating everything else. And on top of that, because of COVID, everything costs more, especially PPE. The small business community needs the State to build public private partnerships and innovative concepts to provide safety nets for small business owners. We would also benefit from a NYS entrepreneur/small business-owner community where proprietors could engage each other and share best concepts and practices. There’s so much support that we need right now.”

Dawn Kelly is CEO of The Nourish Spot Inc., a family-owned healthy food, smoothie, and natural juice bar located in Jamaica, Queens, NYC on the iconic Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. She is also a partner at Metropolis Group US/Global Connect, a virtual public relations agency.

Connectivity and Closing the Digital Divide

Terrell Hall, Bronx, NY

“When a person needs help, as a program manager and formerly incarcerated person, if I can help them, I will. Might not always fit exactly into what we do. If it’s to help someone’s progress, I try to help how I can. You have to do that in these types of programs.”

Terrell Hall works as a Senior Program Manager for Career Readiness and Reentry Programs at Defy Ventures. As a formerly incarcerated person himself who now works with other recently released people, Terrell fully understands the ways in which the digital divide and lack of digital inclusion resources only exacerbates the difficulty of making the transition for the formerly incarcerated.

Patricia LaFlam, Peru, NY

“I took the Senior Planet classes because I was worried I was going to be bored during the pandemic. They sparked my imagination and showed me things I didn’t know that you could do with the computer. I make cards now that are sold in local shops. You need to make broadband affordable, especially for fixed income people, which isn’t poverty level, but still in need.”

Patricia LaFlam is a senior located in rural upstate New York who is active as an advocate for digital inclusion resources in her community. She is a member of the Older Adults Technology Services Senior Planet program, which includes 100+ virtual programming classes for seniors who want to connect with other seniors and learn new skills to navigate the internet.

Read the Reimagine New York Commission’s “Action Plan for a Reimagined New York” here.