De Blasio looks to Legislature, not Cuomo, in push to reopen city

by admin

New York City is planning a “full reopening” on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said — allowing restaurants, businesses and cultural venues to run at full capacity after sixteen months of shutdowns and restrictions in the nation’s largest city.

De Blasio announced the reopening plan Thursday, but acknowledged he hasn’t spoken about it with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who would likely have to sign off on lifting the restrictions. Cuomo said later Thursday he may authorize a full reopening earlier than July 1, but would not commit to a date. The mayor said with Cuomo engulfed in scandal, however, he would rely on the state Legislature to speed reopenings.

“We are ready to bring New York City back fully on July 1st — all systems go,” de Blasio told reporters Thursday. “This is going to be the summer of New York City.”

Under the mayor’s plan, offices, restaurants, bars, stadiums, theaters, museums, retail stores, hair salons and gyms will all be able to operate with no capacity restrictions on his target date. Those venues have all been allowed to reopen gradually, but only at a fraction of their normal capacity.

De Blasio also called for the state to restore 24-hour subway service by that date, ending the current 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. closure for cleaning.

But Cuomo, who throughout the pandemic has clashed with de Blasio repeatedly over what rules should govern life in the city, asserted his authority to choose a date and said he hopes to move sooner than July.

“I don’t want to wait that long. I think if we do what we have to do, we can be reopened earlier,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Buffalo. “I am reluctant to make projections, because I think they’re irresponsible … What happens in May? What happens in June?”

The city has given out 6.4 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine so far, inspiring officials’ confidence that the disease will have receded enough for a safe summer reopening.

On Thursday, the city reported 1,354 new coronavirus cases and a positive test rate of 3.18 percent, some of the lowest numbers the city has seen in months and which continue to drop steadily. Hospitals admitted 97 new patients.

“We have to keep getting vaccinated,” de Blasio said. “We need to keep the momentum going. This is exactly how we get to the full reopening we’re all looking forward to.”

The mayor said he hadn’t been in touch with Cuomo, who has been rocked by a litany of scandals. But he indicated the state Legislature, which in recent days has begun overruling the scandal-scarred governor’s pandemic executive orders, might give him the green light if Cuomo won’t.

“The balance of power shifted a lot in Albany,” de Blasio said. “I think the Legislature is running the State of New York and thank God for it.”

The Legislature voted on Wednesday to repeal a mandate imposed by Cuomo requiring customers to buy food if they’re getting an alcoholic beverage.

Lawmakers have rolled back Cuomo’s authority to issue new emergency orders going forward, but allowed existing ones to stay in place — and Cuomo to modify them — unless the Assembly and Senate specifically overrule him. De Blasio repeated his call Thursday for the governor’s emergency powers to end entirely and for full local control to be restored.

Legislators “are bringing back democratic norms in New York State and canceling some of the arbitrary decisions by the governor,” he said. “What we need is a full restoration of democracy while the Legislature is still in session.”

A midnight curfew on bars and restaurants will soon be lifted, as will a ban on patrons sitting at the bar rather than a table, Cuomo has announced. Offices will be allowed to increase their capacity to 75 percent, and stadiums and gyms are also getting a capacity boost.

It’s unclear whether mask mandates will remain in place when a full reopening is authorized.

“After June, I think we’re going to be in a position to do some things differently. I still think a lot of New Yorkers personally want to choose to wear the masks a lot,” de Blasio said.

He also said private businesses would have the option to require that patrons be vaccinated, but the city would not impose such requirements.

Even with restrictions lifted, certain aspects of the city’s economy are not expected to immediately return to normal. Broadway has said it won’t reopen until at least September, since it needs time to put productions together. A large majority of private office employers continue to have their staff work from home.

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