When it comes to the haphazard plans to reopen city public schools, Mayor de Blasio has his heart in the right place, though of course his head can’t follow it there — he’s a terrible manager. But when it comes to his insistence that restaurants remain closed for indoor dining indefinitely, he’s out to lunch in every respect, callous, dense and full of disdain for regular people — he’s an ideologue.
It’s actually Gov. Cuomo who mostly calls the shots on the restaurant shutdown, having assumed unprecedented powers over the private sector early on in the coronavirus crisis. But de Blasio has been OK with Cuomo’s authoritarian rule-making and unwillingness to relinquish his emergency powers no matter how low the transmission of COVID-19 gets, because the mayor shares those inclinations.
And he’s actually worse than the governor when it comes to his sneering dismissal of the entire restaurant industry as a luxury for the middle and upper classes. Someone should tell him who’s working the kitchens and waiting the tables. Someone also should tell him to stop engaging in class warfare all the time, but that’s what we have to expect from someone who goes on the radio and says, “Help me tax the wealthy. Help me redistribute wealth.” And someone who approvingly says there’s a “socialist impulse” among people all over the city who “would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be.”
It was relatively easy for the city to put up with such a misguided mayor at the helm while the economy was good and he could do things like hire tens of thousands more public employees while spewing dumb stuff about economics and liberty, but now that we’re in a crisis, it’s unacceptable.
Finally, the pushback is getting serious. One Queens restaurant, Il Bacco in Little Neck, is leading a class action lawsuit against the city and state to end the indoor dining shutdown, and reportedly has been joined by more than 300 eateries in the effort. And on Wednesday City Council Speaker Corey Johnson went out on a limb and tweeted that restaurants should be allowed to reopen. This is leadership today.
Meanwhile, Long Island officials led by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran are actively luring Queens residents to dine out east, where officials are following the science and allowing the hospitality sector to try to survive.
It’s hard to say why Cuomo, who is far smarter than de Blasio and knows restaurants mean jobs and tax revenue, is unwilling to put an end to the shutdown farce. Perhaps he’s haunted by the way his COVID nursing home policy led to thousands of deaths and is unwilling to risk any more. Not when he’s looking down the road at the White House.
On the schools, Cuomo is willing to let de Blasio flounder. That way he won’t have to shoulder the blame when things go awry, as they have before classes even begin. This week the United Federation of Teachers made enough noise about possibly going on strike — which would be an illegal act — that de Blasio caved on his months-long insistence that the schools will open Sept. 10. Instead, they’ll open Sept. 21, with teachers preparing in the interim. And if the UFT decides it’s not ready on Sept. 21, it’ll push the mayor around some more. We hope that most teachers believe deep down inside that they are essential workers, on par with the store clerks and nurses who’ve stood strong throughout the crisis, but we worry that too many do not. It would be tragic if the schools reopened at long last only to be closed again.
And it would be a tragedy largely written by de Blasio, whose plans came late and lacked key components that could have given them a better chance to work. Now we can only hope he gets lucky, like he did when he won office.