There have been many reports across the city this weekend of small businesses defying state orders by reopening, even though they are not what the state considers an essential business.
In Williamsburg, one fabric store in particular appeared to use some surprising tactics to appear closed.
To enter Lax’s Fabrics on Lee Avenue, our cameras captured video of two customers lifting a security gate half way, bending down to enter, then lowering the gate.
The owner of the fabric store in Williamsburg’s heavily Orthodox business district did not wish to speak with us.
However, Moshe Greenberg of Borough Park, who works at nearby Shirts & More, says he can understand why some businesses in the area chose to secretly open up shop.
“I know this fine man here who owns this store,” Greenburg said in reference to the owner of Lax’s Fabrics. “I know he was here to help somebody for charity! The person needs his stuff and he’s stuck!”
Greenburg says for more than two months, stores like his clothing shop have been forced to shut down because the state does not consider them essential businesses.
He says the forced closure has been very frustrating financially and emotionally for many of the neighborhood’s small business owners, whose shops he considers essential.
“There’s some businesses that I know here, they are being opened,” Greenburg said. “Even if they get a ticket, to charity because people need the stuff, and it’s essential to them, and they have kids that didn’t get clothing in three months and they need it.”
At the moment, New York City does not meet the metrics that would qualify even for Phase 1 of the city’s reopening plan due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
NY1 caught up with Toki Mealing of Williamsburg as she entered a bodega that is considered essential.
She empathized with nearby business owners who are opening in secret.
“As long as they’re not allowing everyone to come in,” Mealing said. “One person at a time, they’re wearing their masks, same thing as an essential business. You feel their pain? Yeah. You need income.”
However, others who live nearby believe compliance is needed for the sake of safety.
“If we try to open up sooner than we’re supposed to be opening,” said Wesley Smith of Williamsburg, “it increases the probability that other people will continue to get sick and the virus will continue to spread.”
In a statement, officials with City Hall said “We will not tolerate this reckless behavior that poses a serious danger to New Yorker’s health and safety. The NYC Sheriff’s Office will be visiting these sites and taking enforcement action as necessary.”
Officials say if businesses that reopened illegally refused to shut down, they will be
issued a summons and/or a cease and desist. They could also face a fine of up to $1,000.