NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his decision to tell nonessential businesses in coronavirus hot spots to “prepare to close as early as Wednesday morning,” despite no OK from the state.
Speaking to Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis in his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” interview, de Blasio acknowledged “the state gets to make the final decision,” but stressed the city needs to be ready to start shutdowns.
“In those nine particularly challenged zip codes…we want the nonessential businesses closed on Wednesday morning. We have ongoing conversations with the state. The state has still not given approval. We’re urging the state to act quickly. If the state wants to modify this plan, that’s their right, obviously,” de Blasio said Monday evening. “But until further notice, the plan that I have presented is to move on Wednesday morning, because we have to move aggressively. Obviously we’re expecting an answer from the state tonight or tomorrow during the day so that we can get in position and do the enforcement we need to if those restrictions are in place.”
But there is no indication as of this writing that the state will change its mind. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier in the afternoon he will not go along with de Blasio's plan to shut down nonessential businesses in the nine zip codes.
These are the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where schools will close after coronavirus positivity rates climbed higher than 3 percent for the last seven days:
- Far Rockaway/Edgemere
- Borough Park
- Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay
- Kew Gardens
- Kew Gardens Hills
This neighborhood-specific rollback is part of the city’s efforts to fight a potential second wave of coronavirus in the city.
De Blasio also told Louis that two zip codes — Rego Park and Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay — are of particular concern to the city; they have had COVID-19 infection rates above 3 percent for five consecutive days. If 3 percent or more of total tests come up positive in those areas for seven straight days, they would join the list above.
Defending Enforcement Measures
There are some stringent measures the state gave the greenlight for by Monday afternoon, though.
Cuomo announced hundreds of public and private schools in the nine zip codes will shut down for at least two weeks starting Tuesday, one day sooner than the start date the city proposed.
And the state wants to see increased enforcement efforts, such as by hammering down on face covering violators and large gatherings, and by closing down local businesses that are not in compliance. Cuomo said New York state will take over the enforcement oversight in all the hot spot clusters with support from local personnel, such as police officers.
It’s part of a recent push from Cuomo for more crackdowns. He’s argued the city’s efforts have not been sufficient, and that just handing out masks is not enforcement. That’s something de Blasio disagrees with.
“Wherever we were doing summons activity, wherever we were doing enforcement, if people would not comply, they got summonses. What happened the vast majority of the time, people did comply,” the mayor said. “It did help change behavior on a wider level.”
But, despite defending a more patient approach, the mayor says the past two weeks have shown that “clear restrictions” on businesses and in schools in the nine zip codes are necessary.
What Cohesion Issues?
The lack of cohesion between de Blasio and Cuomo on such issues during the pandemic has been stark. In press conferences, the two have frequently contradicted each other instead of presenting coordinated plans. They didn’t initially see eye to eye on requiring face coverings, when to close schools and nonessential businesses in the spring, and if schools should reopen this fall.
Despite the rivalry that has infuriated New Yorkers, the mayor on Monday dismissed these concerns and tried to argue the city and state have ended up on the same page.
“By and large we’ve agreed throughout on the need for tough measures,” de Blasio said.
“Ultimately, we tend to get someplace that is the right kind of decision that helps us move forward for our people. I don’t think it’s dispiriting for the vast majority of New Yorkers,” the mayor added.
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