Gov. Cuomo was a Beastie on COVID-19 Thursday, telling young people this is not the time for them to fight for their right to party as he cracks down on bars drawing crowds amid the coronavirus crisis and tries to get the city to help out more.
“To young people, this is not the time to fight for your right to party,” the stern governor said, referencing the Beastie Boys’ raucous 1986 smash hit “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!),” the track that put the rockin’ rappers from New York on the map. “I respect your right to party. I fully respect it. I would enshrine it into state law if you want to know.
“You have the right to party but let's be smart about it, right? There is an attitude that young people are immune. You are not. Twenty-one to 30, the virus can kill you, and if it doesn't kill you, you can bring it home and give it to someone inadvertently and it can kill them.”
Worried that COVID could surge again in New York, where it claimed a high number of lives early in the crisis, especially among the elderly, but has since been greatly reduced, Cuomo last week ordered that bars and restaurants no longer sell alcohol without food, due to crowding around the establishments.
After young people crowded hot spots such as Steinway Street in Astoria last weekend, his State Liquor Authority suspended the licenses of two bars and one pizza place in Queens, as well as a club on Long Island. The SLA also changed its rules on what constitutes food when it comes to Cuomo’s order, declaring that a bag of chips or bowl of peanuts would no longer cut it but a hot dog or salad would.
Cuomo said on Thursday that the virus infection rate has been flat for the most part in New York State but is rising among people 21 to 30. And, he said, “We know why”:
“You can see it on the news, you can see it in the newspapers, you can see it in social media. It's not hard to understand what is going on. It's hard to deal with it but it's not hard to understand what's going on. You get groups of young people, it's warm, they've been locked up for a long time, we like to socialize — I get it. You don't socially distance, you don't wear masks, the virus spreads and it is happening.”
Long before directly referencing the best-known track from the Beastie Boys’ debut album — which came out a few weeks before he turned 29 and became the first rap LP to top the Billboard chart — Cuomo has been a real “Paul Revere” when it comes to warning people against easing up on the fight against the coronavirus. Though not in so many words, he’s noted that “She’s Crafty” in spreading from person to person. But he says transmission rates are now “Slow and Low” (his words were “low and steady”). He’s warned that “The New Style” of wearing face masks and social distancing is here to stay for a while. He’s banned the sale of “Brass Monkey” and all other alcoholic beverages when not accompanied by a meal.
And on Thursday he floated the idea of putting his own “Posse in Effect” if the NYPD does not crack down on the crowds of young revelers he’s worried could be spreading the virus.
“You have to enforce the law,” he said, adding, “If you need help, we'll get you help with the state police but we have to enforce the law and the local governments have to do it. New York City, NYPD has to enforce the law, not just the Sheriff's Office. When New York City wants to enforce the law, you know who enforces it? The NYPD. Enforce the law. State Liquor Authority and the State Police are going to step up their efforts dramatically, but they can't do it without the local police.”
On Sunday Cuomo reported that more than 100 establishments in New York City and on Long Island had been cited for alleged violations of virus-related regulations.
“State government has gotten more aggressive,” he said. “We've put together a task force of the State Liquor Authority and the State Police. Over Friday and Saturday night, they did 105 violations.”
The State Liquor Authority will subsequently be issuing liquor license suspensions, he continued. He did not say how many of the alleged violations might result in suspensions.
Separately on Thursday, the governor warned Mayor de Blasio that there’s “No Sleep till Brooklyn” when it comes to cleaning up the graffiti left behind by protesters who had set up an encampment outside City Hall. The camp existed for about a month before police cleared it out early Wednesday. A number of historical buildings in the area were spray-painted with messages ranging from “Black lives matter” to “F--k cops” and “Kill all cops,” along with drawings of pigs’ faces and the anarchist symbol, while the protesters held sway.
Cuomo told the mayor that cleaning it up is important and that the city has to make positive progress and move forward.
“It’s gotta be cleaned,” Cuomo said. “It’s graffiti. Graffiti is not COVID, it’s not. It’s spray paint on a building.”
The administration reportedly has said it will take weeks to clean the damaged structures, which include the Tweed Courthouse, Surrogate’s Court and the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building.
It took the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority one day to clean the graffiti and other damage done to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall subway station by the camped-out protesters.
Asked at his own Thursday press event about the governor’s comments, including that the amount of graffiti in the city in general symbolizes a return to the 1970s, de Blasio said, “We are never going back to the 1970s. I think there are some people who lived through that time who were deeply affected by it, but it's just not part of our lives anymore. That was a really, really horrible time in New York City history in some ways, not every way, but in some ways, for sure. We have left that behind, we're an entirely different city. We're never going back.”
Asked again about the pace of the graffiti cleanup on the city buildings, he said, “Again, we're cleaning up everything around the site down here by City Hall and anything that happens on a public building, we will do the same.”
This article has been updated to include mention of the citations given to bars and restaurants over the weekend and further comments from Gov. Cuomo.
This article originally used the word "taciturn" to describe the governor but "stern" is closer to the intended meaning.