New York Citys latest reopening phase leaves much of the economy still frozen – Politico


Dining chairs and tables are stacked at Little Tong Noodle Shop. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

Dining chairs and tables are stacked at Little Tong Noodle Shop in New York. | AP Photo/John Minchillo

NEW YORK — New York City entered the fourth and final scheduled phase of its coronavirus reopening on Monday, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said there’s no timeline for when still-shuttered indoor facilities like restaurants, museums, theaters and malls will be able to open.

Until they do, the city’s economy remains largely at a standstill. A report from the Partnership for New York City, first reported Monday by POLITICO, painted a bleak picture of the city’s economic future. As many as one-third of the 230,000 or so small businesses across the city may close permanently. A report from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce found more than half of that borough’s small businesses were struggling to stay open through the summer.

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The phase four reopening does include some outdoor cultural sites like zoos and botanic gardens. The Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Botanical Garden, Empire State Building observation deck and outdoor sections of Liberty Island are among the iconic spots opening this week, with capacity limits in place and some with the first days open only to members.

“The heroic efforts of New Yorkers fighting back this disease have made this possible,” de Blasio said during his daily briefing Monday. “So many things are moving forward.”

TV, movie and music production have the green light to start up on Monday, and professional sports are returning with no fans.

Since it began to emerge from a monthslong lockdown in early June, the city has every two weeks entered a new phase of the reopening plan. Now that it has reached phase four, there are no more planned milestones on the calendar.

Indoor restaurants and bars have been ordered to stay shut in the city, and indoor museums were nixed from the fourth phase. Gyms, movie theaters and malls are among the other businesses still under indefinite shutdown orders.

“There’s so much concern about certain types of indoor activities, and right now we are all about keeping New York City safe, being smart, being cautious about it,” de Blasio said.

“We do not have a deadline, quote unquote, by which we’re looking to make a decision on indoor dining or malls,” he said. “We want to keep watching the overall situation in the country, the overall situation in the city, and how all these other things interact — including, most obviously, when people start to come back more in September to school and work.”

Jay Varma, a top public health adviser to the mayor, said the city was shaping its approach based on the experience of other places where reopening has sparked a surge in virus cases.

“We understand completely this presents an incredible challenge for the businesses throughout the city. But we’ve seen what has happened in many other places around the world — particularly places that have done an exceptional job at controlling this epidemic — have had to repeatedly open and close indoor bars, restaurants, other shopping facilities because of resurgence,” he said.

“We need to be very cautious because of the experiences throughout the world.”

The city has been reporting a few hundred new coronavirus cases each day, and there has been an increase in the infection rate among young adults.

In the latest data reported Monday, 74 people entered hospitals for Covid-19 symptoms, public hospital ICUs were treating 311 patients and 2 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive.

De Blasio also vowed enforcement against establishments that flout social distancing rules — saying an Astoria lounge, Brik, which was a focal point for maskless crowds partying on Steinway Street over the weekend, has been shut down.

“No one wants to shut down bars and restaurants, but if they do not cooperate in our efforts to contain the coronavirus, they will be shut down,” de Blasio said. “If we have to, we’ll give out summonses. So there will be heavier enforcement by the sheriff’s office, and when needed by the NYPD as well, around bars and restaurants.”