January 27, 2021

De Blasio Warns Non-Essential Business Closures Still On Table

NEW YORK CITY — A persistent divide between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio played out in back-to-back Monday announcements over coronavirus restrictions facing the city amid local resurgences.

First, Cuomo announced schools in nine coronavirus hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens will close Tuesday rather than de Blasio’s proposed Wednesday.

Then, de Blasio pledged at his own news conference that the city is prepared to start enforcing restrictions and closures on non-essential businesses in those areas starting Wednesday — an issue on which Cuomo held off making a final decision.

It took a reporter twice pressing de Blasio on the potential business closures for him to clarify the city will be “preparing” for them to start rather than enforcing them without state approval.

“If the state does not authorize restrictions, we’re not going to act,” he said. “But I find that very unlikely at this point. The governor has been very clear that we have a problem — it’s not just a problem in Brooklyn and Queens, it’s a problem in Nassau County, in Rockland County, in Orange County. This is becoming a bigger problem for the city and the state.”

To repeat: non-essential businesses in those nine ZIP codes aren’t yet under closures, but the city is preparing as if the state will approve their plan starting Wednesday.

The long-standing political tug-of-war between Cuomo and de Blasio often results in conflicting messages to New York City dwellers. But the rat-a-tat announcements, starting Sunday with de Blasio’s proposal to close schools and non-essential businesses in hotspot neighborhoods, likely will prompt whiplash for parents, business owners and other residents caught in between.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams quickly pointed out the tension between the two leaders and warned it could be dangerous.

“The back and forth between the Mayor and Governor on the scope and method of enforcement for additional restrictions in specific zip codes as COVID-19 cases rise is an echo of what we saw in mid-March, when delays and power plays led to lives lost,” he wrote in a statement. “Since then, the only thing that has been consistent between them is inconsistency. The message has been mixed, and the results are clear – cases are rising and New York is at risk of another wide-scale outbreak if proper precautions are not taken.”

Cuomo, when pressed on why he and de Blasio couldn’t make the announcement together to cut down on confusion, said they have different schedules and he wanted to get information out quickly.

“I didn’t put out this plan — he did,” Cuomo said. “So, if anything you’d want to ask him why didn’t you propose a plan to the state and work it out first and then just announce a final plan, as opposed to announcing a proposed plan that the state then had to react to.”

De Blasio, responding to Cuomo’s comment, said after city officials come up with a plan the best approach is to first announce it to New Yorkers and publicly put the proposal on the table, he said.

“That is the best way to achieve the goal,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the New York City Patch

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