Brooklyn merchants urge Gov. Cuomo to avoid broad COVID-19 shutdown

Brooklyn merchants urge Gov. Cuomo to avoid broad COVID-19 shutdown

Brooklyn’s largest merchants’ group urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday to avoid imposing drastic citywide restrictions to tame a second wave of COVID-19 — saying such a clampdown will put teetering firms out of business.

“On the eve of Small Business Saturday when we are encouraging New Yorkers to shop local and support neighborhood businesses, we’re calling on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to reexamine a citywide shutdown,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers, who represents 62,000 borough firms.

Cuomo could put the entire city in an orange zone if the Big Apple’s COVID-19 infection rate exceeds 3 percent — which would bar indoor dining and close gyms, barbershops and hair salons, nail salons and other personal care services.

Mayor Bill de Blasio faced withering criticism for closing the public schools last week because of an uptick in the citywide coronavirus infection rate — though testing showed that rate among students and staff was low.

The citywide virus positivity rate on Thursday was 2.8 percent and its seven-day rolling average was 2.56 percent, according to the state Health Department.

Staten Island led the city with a 4.4 percent infection rate on Thursday, followed by 3.9 percent in The Bronx, 3.3 percent in Queens and 1.7 percent in Manhattan.

Subway straphangers are seen wearing face masks at Grand Central Terminal.
Straphangers are seen wearing face masks at Grand Central Terminal.Christopher Sadowski

Much of Staten Island is already in the restrictive orange zone.

The city’s own sobering data revealed last week found that 40 neighborhood zip codes have infection rates above 4 percent — evidence that a second wave had arrived.

But Cuomo on Thursday said he wants to avoid a drastic citywide pause that would close or hobble many businesses.

Instead, he’s developing a winter plan that would continue to rely on a “micro-cluster approach” that targets restrictions to hot-spots neighborhoods to control the pandemic  but “minimize economic impact” on small businesses.

“[The approach] stresses individual and community accountability and responsibility. So that’s working very well and all the experts think that is the state-of-the-art,” the governor said.

A targeted plan makes more sense and business closures in cluster zones should only occur “as a last resort,” Peers of the Brooklyn Chamber said.

Peers said merchants are more desperate now because the federal coronavirus aid has dried up and many can’t pay their rent.

“Unlike last spring,” he said, “there will be no federal stimulus funding for New Yorkers to fall back on, and the forced loss of thousands of jobs will be absolutely devastating.

“Punishing businesses that are following health requirements and operating safely cannot be the default way out of this crisis. There has to be a better solution that includes increased enforcement of unpermitted private gatherings and individuals who violate safety protocols, and targeted business closures only as a last resort,” Peers said.

The chamber claims there is “no evidence” that regulated businesses are responsible for a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“For many small businesses carrying high inventories in advance of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and the holiday shopping season, most simply cannot afford to lose critical sales during a shutdown and expect to survive into 2021,” the Brooklyn Chamber said in a release.

City restaurants have already begun to see a decline in outdoor dining as the weather cools and are relying on revenues from limited indoor dining to stay afloat, the chamber said.