“We need to begin to act now.”
Gov. Cuomo, in his State of the State address on Monday, said the state cannot afford to wait for its entire population to be inoculated against Covid-19 to begin reopening businesses.
A struggling state economy and a looming $15 billion budget deficit lend credence to his warning.
But he said the development of faster testing and its widest possible distribution will be essential to reopening businesses.
“If we don’t, dining will remain at levels too low for restaurants to survive,” the governor said in a transcript of his remarks found on his official website. “Offices will remain empty, hurting the service businesses that depend on those office workers. Theaters and sports venues will sit empty. People will remain out of work, with all the psychological as well as financial trauma that entails.
“Testing is the key to reopening our economy before the vaccine hits critical mass. Rapid testing poses great possibilities. It can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.”
Queens business owners and advocates have often questioned Cuomo’s support for businesses in the city.
An informal survey this week showed deep concern.
“It may be a little late in the game,” said Glenn Greenidge, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District in Jamaica. “But I think it’s important that we take a look for the businesses that are still around. The pandemic has changed how we look at normalcy. We need to see who is still viable and who can fill the void that’s going to be there to be filled.”
Raquel Olivares, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, said she has a lot of restaurants among her members along the 25-block corridor of Jamaica Avenue.
“They wonder why they haven’t been able to open [for indoor dining] when other places in the state have,” Olivares told the Chronicle. “We can’t survive on delivery and takeout. A lot of people will be closing. A lot of people tell me they can’t pay the rent. That’s a problem.”
Olivares said one of her members also has a restaurant in Eastern Queens.
“The only way he has been able to stay in business is by using all his savings over 20 years,” she said. “People are struggling.”
Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, said her group has been doing what it can.
Her organization has been encouraging people from the start to order local takeout food and shop at neighborhood stores whenever and wherever online ordering and curbside pickup is possible in order to keep merchants afloat.
“I think it is really important to support businesses,” she said. “Winter is going to be a tough time. We’re encouraging people to double down and do whatever they can to drive business to our businesses. Obviously safety is important, but safety has been at the top for all of us.”
Cuomo, in his speech, said the state has tried to strike the safest and most reasonable balance with health and economic activity from the beginning.
But he also said it remains up to people to continue to follow the safest practices.
“We have always understood the COVID reality: that the options for the economy are not to fully open or fully close, but rather to strike a new model of balance where we use science and technology to re-open the economy,” the governor said.
“It was never either/or — it was always both,” he added. “And safe and smart is not determined by action of government alone but by the action of the people — New Yorkers themselves will determine our future.”