A Message from DoNYC
The coming weeks or even months will be a difficult time for the city and the amazing arts and entertainment community of New York. It's extremely important that when this passes, we all go out and support the venues, restaurants, museums, bars and stores we love so that they recover from the economic impact of this situation as fast as possible. In the meantime, we recommend regularly checking the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's website for all the latest updates and directives. We're not health and safety experts; we're experience experts.
We're all about helping you have the night of your life, every night, and will continue to do so in the best way possible. Thanks for your continued support and the support of our community!
Now on to the news:
Updated October 21st, 2020
New MTA Map Promises Real-Time Subway Schedule
The MTA launched their first "real-time" subway map that promises to give live schedule updates. Design firm Work & Co. created the map using data from the MTA as service changes happen and will also depict the train's actual movement from station to station. Though the digital map is still in its beta version, the MTA hopes the new technology will make commuting easier for NYC, especially with the COVID-related service changes.
NY Will Not Cut Off Travel Between CT, NJ, & PA
Despite increasing COVID positivity rates, Governor Cuomo will not add Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to the COVID travel advisory quarantine list. While "non-essential" travel is strongly discouraged, Governor Cuomo recognized the impossibility of restricting travel to our tristate area neighbors, NJ and CT in particular. This leaves 40 states on the travel advisory list, which requires out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Updated October 20th, 2020
New York Expected to Legalize Marijuana in 2021 After COVID Delay
After COVID-19 delayed initial hearings involving the legalization of cannabis products in New York, legislation will be reintroduced to 2021 budget hearings with the expectation that the reform will be passed in April. The law will include regulations around cannabis-infused food and drink items. This is not the first time the legalization of cannabis products has been included in Cuomo's proposed state budget; however, tax revenue and regulations have put a hold on legalization in the past.
Cuomo Unveils Vaccination Distribution Outline
Though there has been no confirmation as to if and when a COVID-19 vaccination will be available, Governor Cuomo and New York state have released an early plan to make sure that the vaccine is accessible for all. The plan prioritizes those who work in healthcare, live in nursing homes, or are considered to be a part of "high-risk populations." Vaccine distribution will be released in phases, based on the priority matrix outlined above, and will ideally be available at hospitals, pharmacies, schools, local health departments and clinics, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and correction facilities. However, the plan remains vague because of a lack of information from the Trump administration.
Updated October 19th, 2020
Cuomo Introduces "Micro-Cluster" Strategy as Winter Approaches
Governor Cuomo has recently introduced a "Micro-Cluster" strategy that will hopefully contain the increase in COVID-19 hotspots anticipated during the colder months. Rather than the initial zip code-based zones meant to identify neighborhoods where COVID positivity rates had increased, the state will track positive cases at specific addresses and will implement rules and regulations based on the concentration of cases in that specific area. The immediate vicinity will be the "red zone," where the strictest regulations will be enforced. "Orange" and "yellow" zones will serve as buffers surrounding the red zone but will not be subject to the same restrictions.
New York Ski Resorts Will Open This Winter With Increased COVID Guidelines
Starting November 6th, ski resorts in New York state will be able to open at 50% capacity. On "peak" days, the capacity will be decreased by 25%. Masks will not be required while skiing, eating or drinking but must be worn at all other times. In additional, gondola & lift rides will be restricted to members of the same party and ski lessons will be capped at 10 people.
Updated October 16th, 2020
Major Chains Urge Cuomo to Reopen Movie Theaters
The Global Cinema Collective, a group of theater CEOs from major chains including Cinépolis, AMC, Cineworld and Cineplex, have penned a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to reconsider theater closures in New York. Though theaters in other markets, including 48 other states, have reopened, the continued closure of the New York market is a major financial strain for the worldwide chains. In addition, the delay of major blockbusters like Dune have also damaged the industry. In the meantime, theaters like the Regal Cinema in Times Square have decided to protest Cuomo’s delayed openings in any way that makes sense, like displaying “48 states have reopened theaters so far. Why not New York, Gov. Cuomo? #ReopenOurCinemasNY” on their marquee.
City Releases Heating Guidelines for Outdoor Dining
Mayor de Blasio released Emergency Executive Order No. 153 this week, which allows spaces participating in the Open Restaurants Program to utilize temporary outdoor heaters in their outdoor dining areas. The order allows electric heaters on sidewalks and roadways but propane and natural gas heaters on sidewalks only. All heaters will need to be approved by the Fire Department.
Updated October 15th, 2020
2020 Census Count Cut Short, Ends Today
In a 7-1 vote, the Supreme Court overruled a lower court's decision to extend the 2020 Census Count until October 31st and will instead end it today, October 15th at 11:59 EST. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only judge who voted against the early cut-off, citing her fear of the "lasting impact for at least the next ten years." New York State and City officials are particularly worried about the change in Census date, as reporting was particularly low this year due to the pandemic. The low turnout could result in reduced funding and fewer State seats in Congress, which would be detrimental to New York's already struggling socioeconomic system. If you haven't completed the Census yet, there's still time to fill it in online!
Governor Cuomo Threatens Budget Cuts for Local Governments Not Complying with Social Distancing Laws
With COVID-19 infection rates rising in New York, Governor Cuomo is threatening local governments with budget cuts if they do not enforce school & business shutdowns or restrictions on gatherings. The Governor called out parts of NYC and Orange and Rockland counties, where positivity rates have gone up significantly. Though the state positivity result remains around 1.1%, the non-compliant red zone neighborhoods are seeing positivity rates of 6.29%. Mayor de Blasio and public officials in the affected counties outside of the city are fighting back against the Governor, as budget cuts would be a punishment that could hurt the communities further.
Updated October 12th, 2020
NYC Has Handed Out $150k in Fines Since Friday
Last week, the city began imposing fines and further enforcing socially-distancing restrictions—particularly in the COVID hotspot zones in Brooklyn and Queens. Since Friday, authorities have handed out about 62 fines, coming in at around $150,000 altogether. Five fines valued at the maximum penalty, $15k, were issued for religious gatherings. The organizers of an illegal rave outside of the zoned hotspots also received several fines, though the amount has not yet been reported.
Roosevelt Hotel to Close
The historic Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown will close this year due to the pandemic. Like many NYC institutions, the 96-year-old hotel fell victim to the financial fall out and lack of tourism during quarantine. Though the doors may shutter, the hotel as we know it will live on in films such as Malcolm X, Wall Street, The Irishmen and others.
Updated October 9th, 2020
$15,000 Fines Take Effect Today
Starting today, the city will impose steep fines of up to $15,000 per day for violations of social distancing and gathering restrictions. In the city's new color-coded cluster map, gatherings are completely banned in red zones with the exception of houses of worship, which are capped at 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people. Mayor de Blasio also promised to enforce fines of up to $1,000 for individuals who do not comply with social distancing and mask guidelines.
Broadway Extends Shutdown to June 2021
The show must go on... but not yet. The Broadway League announced this morning that they would extend their current suspension on live performances through May 30th, 2021. The League was one of the first large groups of event organizers to voluntarily suspend operations back in March, and in June announced that they would remain closed until the start of next year. The Tony Awards, however, will go on this year, despite the limited window of performances. Nominees will be announced next week, and any show that was open on or before February 19th will be eligible.
Religious Groups File Suit Against New Closures
Both the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and a group of Jewish organizations have filed suit against Governor Cuomo this week over new restrictions the governor imposed on places of worship. The groups claim that banning congregation in hotspot areas is discriminatory, and violates their first amendment rights to free practice of faith. In June, a federal judge sided with plaintiffs in similar case, saying that the mayor and governor had no right to close houses of worship while allowing gatherings of larger sizes in secular establishments. This time, however, houses of worship are allowed to hold gatherings of up to 10 people, while all non-essential secular establishments are banned from having gatherings of any kind.
Updated October 8th, 2020
Zoned COVID Shutdowns Begin Today
As COVID Infection rates increase in parts of South Brooklyn and Queens, the state and city governments have agreed to begin lockdowns today. Rather than original basis on zip codes, Governor Cuomo has come up with clusters or "zones" where infection is highest, with the "red zone" being the cluster face the strictest lockdown provisions. Private and public schools had been closed for remote learning earlier in the week but today's shutdowns also include non-essential businesses. Houses of worship will still be open, but no more than ten people are able to gather at a time. The lockdown will last at least fourteen days or until positivity rates decline.
President Trump Refuses to Participate in Virtual Debates
After the first Presidential debate last week and subsequent spread of COVID-19 in the White House, including amongst President Trump and his family, the National Commission on Debates has announced that future presidential debates will be held virtually. Former VP Biden and his team quickly agreed to the virtual format but President Trump has refused as it is, "a waste of his time." Though refusing to debate seems like a poor move for a presidential campaign, it is legal and has been done before by former President Jimmy Carter in 1980. This would not be the first "virtual" debate, as the third debate of the 1960 Election was held with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in different locations.
Updated October 7th, 2020
New Restrictions & Shutdowns Hit BK + Queens COVID Hotspots
Following days of back and forth with the mayor, Governor Cuomo has ordered new restrictions and non-essential businesses to shut down in areas of Brooklyn and Queens with heavy increases in COVID positivity rates, amounting to the first significant “rollback” in NYC’s reopening. Restrictions and shutdowns are based on “red, orange and yellow” zones, with red zones closing all non-essential businesses and a total prohibition on mass gatherings (including a hefty $50k fine for organizing one illegally). See the map and breakdown of restrictions here.
Updated October 6th, 2020
de Blasio Wants to Move Forward With Business Closures
Though schools officially closed today in the nine COVID hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, Mayor de Blasio is still pushing for the state to close non-essential businesses in the affected areas as well. In a press conference on Monday, de Blasio suggested that the city would move forward with business closures despite Governor Cuomo's decision to keep them operating. City and state officials are still unsure about the future of non-essential businesses in the neighborhoods but can confirm that any closures have to be approved on a state level first.
NYSC Barred From Charging Unlawful Fees
AG Letitia James sued Town Sports, the parent company of New York Sports Club and Lucille Roberts, for charging unlawful dues to members who were trying to cancel their gym memberships. The gyms have been temporarily barred from charging certain members fees until a hearing is held later this month. Cancellations and membership holds spiked during the pandemic, with many New Yorkers still nervous about using gym despite reopening earlier this fall.
Updated October 5th, 2020
Cuomo Closes Schools in COVID Hotspots
Governor Cuomo has announced that public and private schools in the zip codes 11691, 11219, 11223, 11230, 11204, 11210, 11229, 11415, and 11367 will close for remote learning starting on Tuesday. This decision comes after these Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods in Brooklyn have reported COVID positivity rates at over 3% for a minimum of seven consecutive days. Non-essential businesses are still able to operate. At this point in time, the city does not feel the closures should extend to other zip codes in the boroughs.
Upstate NY Judge Deems SLA's Ban On IRL Music Events Unconstitutional
In Buffalo, Judge Frank Sedita III ruled the State Liquor Authority's ban on advertising for live music at bars and restaurants unconstitutional. This ruling came after Buffalo bar Sportsmen's Tavern filed a lawsuit against the state. Though the ruling only applies specifically to Sportsmen's Tavern, it does open the door for other New York venues to take similar action against the SLA.
Updated October 2nd, 2020
COVID Exposure Tracking App
Governor Cuomo has released COVID Alert NY, a COVID exposure tracking app available for smartphones. New York's regional app joins the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware app network that uses Exposure Notification System technology developed by Google and Apple. Instead of using location or personal data for tracking, the app will use bluetooth to alert you if you've been within six feet with anyone who has come in contact with the virus for at least 10 minutes. Governor Cuomo and the state are encouraging New Yorkers to download COVID Alert NY. as it works best with more people actively tracking. To download, click here.
NYC Introduces 1,000 Mask Fines
With the recent spike in positive COVID cases, Mayor de Blasio and the city of New York will start fining people up to $1,000 if they do not comply with mandatory mask laws. The city's primary goal is to hand out free masks but will take further action if the person refuses to wear the provided free mask.
Updated September 30th, 2020
Ballot Blunders from NYC Board of Elections
The NYC Board of Elections sent out incorrect ballots to nearly 100,000 Brooklyn residents this week. The BoE claims this was a mistake made by their paper vendor, Phoenix Graphics, who will be reprinting and reissuing the ballots in time for November 2020. Rather than having individual voters reach out about mislabeled ballots, the board will be reissuing around 100,000 ballots that are believed to have been mistakenly printed in a single run.This news is particularly unsettling with President Trump’s remark during last night’s debate that suggested his supporters should visit their local polling sites and monitor electoral activities, which is illegal unless you are a registered Poll Worker. To find out how to help out at your polling site, visit the Election Assistance Commission's website.
Indoor Dining Returns Today
As of September 30th, NYC restaurants are allowed to open up indoors at 25% capacity. Though the restaurant industry has benefited from the extended outdoor dining provisions, the return of indoor dining will hopefully be the extra boost that business owners need to stay afloat.
Updated September 28th, 2020
Al Fresco Dining Forever
In a major win for the restaurant industry, Mayor de Blasio has decided to make outdoor dining a permanent fixture in NYC. Before the announcement, outdoor dining was set to end on October 31st. Even with indoor dining set to return at 25% capacity on September 30th, restaurant owners were worried about keeping up their revenue streams without the option for outdoor seating. There will be additional provisions for outdoor dining going forward, including operating like an indoor restaurant (limited capacity and proper ventilation) if the restaurant is using an enclosed, heated outdoor area.
Large Indoor Gatherings Broken Up By NYPD
Two non-sanctioned indoor gatherings were broken up by the NYPD this weekend for hosting events with 50+ attendees. The first was a wedding at Royal Elite Palace in Maspeth, Queens with close to 300 attendees. The venue's owner and manager were hit with misdemeanor charges for violating social distancing laws. That same evening, K-One Karaoke Bar On The Bowery was busted for having about 78 people inside for drinking and dining at 2:30am. The owners were taken into custody on a number of charges, including breaking the social-distancing law.
Updated September 25th, 2020
Small Business Lease Protections Extended Until 2021
The City Council voted on a bill that would extend the prohibition of the enforcement of personal liability provisions for restaurants and small businesses until 2021. This announcement comes just days before the initial suspension was set to end on September 30th. Small business owners will continue to be protected by law against landlords taking personal assets or terminating commercial leases due to lapsed rent payments related to the COVID-19 shutdown.
NYC May Shutdown Non-Essential Businesses in COVID-19 Hot Spots
The Health Department may shutdown non-essential businesses in parts of NYC where the COVID infection rate has increased. The new shutdown could come as soon as Thursday, September 30th and would affect neighborhoods in Southern Brooklyn's "Ocean Parkway Cluster," Williamsburg, Kew Gardens and Edgemere-Far Rockaway in Queens. The DOH will be providing additional testing sites, increased access to PPE and literature pertaining to the spread of the virus in the affected areas in the coming weeks.
Updated September 24th, 2020
Metropolitan Opera's 2020-2021 Season is Cancelled
Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 The Metropolitan Opera has announced the cancellation of their 2020-2021 season of programming. The 2021-2022 season plans to open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut up in my Bones—the first opera by a Black composer to be performed at the Met. 2020-2021 ticket holders will be able to use their tickets for the following season.
IRL Times Square New Year's Eve Festivities Cancelled
The annual New Year's Eve celebration attended by close to one million people every year in Times Square has been cancelled this year. Instead organizers are planning a "a virtually enhanced
celebration that brings Times Square and the Ball to you digitally no matter where you are." There is a general sense of sharing the possibilities of the new year with the world that organizers hope will make this year's celebration a highlight for all.
Updated September 23rd, 2020
City Council to Vote on Permanent Outdoor Dining Plan
On September 30th, City Council will hold a vote on new proposed legislation to make outdoor dining a permanent fixture in the city. The new bill would repeal the existing rules for outdoor dining that expire on October 31st, and replace them with new guidelines that would allow restaurants to operate outdoors year-round. The bill also gives permissions for restaurants to use propane heaters outside, which will make it much easier to ensure that outdoor spaces remain warm and comfortable when the weather cools down. Currently, over 10,000 restaurants are utilizing outdoor spaces throughout the city.
Comedy Clubs Hold Rally to Push for Reopening
Yesterday, a group of comedy club owners, comedians, and local politicians held a rally to petition Governor Cuomo to allow them to open. The group says that they are in danger of permanently closing because they have not received any aid, and have no guidance about when they will be allowed to open. They hope to be able to join bowling alleys, casinos and more businesses in the entertainment industry in opening with limited capacity. A previous proposal they sent to the governor calls for an immediate opening of outdoor performances with a maximum capacity of 50 guests, or for indoor performances at 25% capacity (like restaurants) or 50% capacity without food and beverage service (like bowling alleys).
Judge Orders USPS to Deliver Absentee Ballots On Time
A Manhattan federal judge issued a ruling yesterday ordering the US Postal Service to ensure on time delivery of absentee ballots. Judge Victor Marrero heard a case brought forward by 16 voters and candidates, and issued a 90-page ruling that stated that recent changes in USPS policy and recent statements from the president have reduced assurances that the USPS will be able to satisfactorily complete their obligation to deliver ballots on time. Now, the postal service will be required to report weekly on delivery standards, pre-approve overtime in the week ahead of election day, and sent a memo to all postal workers detailing the policy on handing election materials.
Updated September 21st, 2020
Commercial Eviction Moratorium Extended Until October 20th
Governor Cuomo has extended the commercial eviction moratorium until October 20th. This extension largely benefits businesses that were late on rent and facing eviction before the pandemic began. Eviction proceedings for commercial tenants behind on rent for pandemic-related reasons are still on hold. Though the extension is a relief for tenants trying to pay back-rent and negotiate leases with landlords, the last-minute deadline changes have been challenging for business owners. The residential eviction moratorium is still scheduled to end on October 1st.
NYC Indoor Swimming Pools to Reopen
Several months after their outdoor counterparts, NYC's public and private indoor swimming pools will be able to reopen at 33% capacity starting September 30th. In a recent statement, de Blasio cited swimming pools as a "community anchor, exercise center, and oasis in their neighborhoods—both figuratively and literally." This announcement came as exciting news for gym owners and nonprofit fitness organizers alike, who had been lobbying the state and city government for the right to reopen for months.
Updated September 18th, 2020
Restaurants Permitted to Add a "Covid-19 Recovery Surcharge" to Bill
In a bill recently passed by the New York City Council, restaurants will be able to add up to a 10% surcharge to the bill, with the hope that it will help recoup some of the financial burdens placed on restaurateurs during the pandemic. The surcharge must be clearly noted on the final check. This measure is only temporary and will continue until restaurants have been able to remain open at full capacity for 90 days.
First Day of In-Person Learning at NYC Public Schools Pushed Back Again
Amid the outcry and protests from educators, parents, and students about the rush to reopen NYC public schools for in-person learning, Mayor de Blasio has pushed back the start date so schools have enough time to get up to COVID-19 code. K-5 and K-8 schools will stay remote until Sept. 29. Middle and high schools won’t reopen until Oct. 1. In the meantime, students will continue remote learning. However, 3-K, pre-K and District 75 special education schools will still reopen Monday, September 21st.
Updated September 17th, 2020
Open Streets Given Weekday Open Restaurant Hours
Forty open streets in the city’s successful Open Restaurants program have been given the go-ahead to extend open hours to include weekdays. Prior to this announcement, open streets were only able to operate on weekends and holidays. The program has been successful during the COVID-19 shutdown and Mayor de Blasio feels like that restaurants and New Yorkers should be able to enjoy outdoor dining as long and as often they can. Some of the streets with extended hours include Reed Street (Conover Street to Van Brunt Street) in Brooklyn, Ann Street (Nassau Street to William Street) in Manhattan, and Arthur Avenue (E 188th Street to Crescent Avenue) in the Bronx.
Brooklyn Restaurant Sues State Over Indoor Dining Policies
Tov Lutzker, owner of Williamsburg restaurant The Graham, is suing the state of New York for the 11PM curfew that will presumably be enforced when restaurants are able to reopen indoors on September 30th. The Graham, and many restaurants like it, consider hours after midnight one of their largest revenue streams, as they are able to cater to MTA workers, restaurant employees just getting off their shifts and others.The lawsuit states that "Coronavirus does not behave as a vampire, infecting others only when the moon is out."
Updated September 16th, 2020
Push to Make Outdoor Dining Permanent
As fall rapidly approaches, various politicians, restaurant owners and advocates are making a push to extend the city's Open Restaurants program beyond its current end date of October 31st. Several city councilmen, state senators and more have pointed to the success of the program in providing more that 10,000 city restaurants with a lifeline and bringing as many as 90,000 jobs back. The program has already been renewed for next year, but Mayor de Blasio says he's working on a plan to allow restaurants to operate outdoor dining areas year-round. The biggest obstacle now lies in how to heat outdoor spaces, as propane heaters are currently illegal for use within city limits. Restaurants are allowed to use either electric heat lamps or natural gas heaters with permanent gas lines, however both of those options are prohibitively expensive for many establishments.
6 States Removed from Quarantine List, PR Added
Thanks to declining infection rates in several regions across the country, governors from the tristate area have removed six states from the mandatory quarantine list. Visitors from California, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio will no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico was added back to the list. The states' mandatory quarantine list now includes 30 states and territories, making travel to virtually all of the southeast difficult for New Yorkers who may try to escape the impending cold weather.
Cuomo Won't Ban Trick-Or-Treating
Governor Cuomo said this morning that he will not ban trick-or-treating for kids across the state on Halloween. Although he did clarify that guidance and recommendations would be coming from his office in the coming weeks, he said that imposing a blanket ban on families collecting candy door to door or walking around their neighborhoods in costume would be inappropriate. Just make sure your costume includes a mask, and no, we don't think a Scream mask will count.
Updated September 15th, 2020
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the Age of COVID-19
For the first time in the parade's 94-year history, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a television-only event due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. The helium balloons will take a detour from the usual 2.5 mile parade route and head straight to Herald Square, where the event will be broadcast on NBC. Instead of the usual street handlers, Macy's said that the balloons will fly via "an innovative, specially rigged anchor vehicle framework of five specialty vehicles tested and approved by the NYPD." Performances will be pre-recorded over a span of two days in accordance with COVID-19 filming guidelines. Santa Claus will, of course, still be coming to town because we really need him.
Updated September 11th, 2020:
MTA Issuing $50 Fines For Riders Who Refuse to Wear Masks
Starting Monday, September 14th, the MTA will be issuing $50 fines for public transit users who refuse to follow the mandatory mask policy. It is not clear whether the NYPD will be involved in enforcement of the policy, after the fines were initially outlawed in May following the brutal arrest of an unmasked mother in front of her child. Many are finding issue with enforcing the mask fines, as they have the potential to target low-income, minority riders, and because NYPD officers have frequently been spotted without masks of their own. However, the fines would rightfully protect transit workers from the virus—many of whom have died from COVID-19 due to mask noncompliance on public transportation.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Aid Program Back in Effect on Monday
After weeks without financial assistance, unemployed New Yorkers will finally receive pandemic aid again. When Congress failed to extend the program in July, President Trump issued an executive order to extend the program until the end of the year at a reduced rate of $300 per week. Recipients may be required to submit additional certification to receive further payments but the Department of Labor plans on notifying those beneficiaries starting today.
Updated September 10th, 2020:
Village Halloween Parade Cancelled Due to COVID-19
This year's much-anticipated Village Halloween Parade has been cancelled due to COVID-19. This will be the second time the parade has been cancelled in its 47 year history, with 2012 being the first due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. To add to the disappointment regarding this West Village tradition, the parade would have had Billy Porter as Grand Marshall and would be the first Saturday parade in seven years. Instead, the organizers plan on throwing a "surprise" event that will draw less of a crowd but still allow New Yorkers to celebrate the time-honored tradition.
Boutique Gym Owners Fight For Their Right to Reopen
Boutique gym owners, particularly ones that offer group fitness classes like yoga, are suing the city to reopen along with larger-scale gyms.Though Cuomo has given gyms across the state the go-ahead to reopen, de Blasio has yet to give small studio any intel as to when they can open their doors again. The New York Fitness Coalition, a group of studio owners, have filed the lawsuit and are demanding to know what makes a socially-distanced yoga or pilates class more dangerous than an open gym with shared equipment.
Updated September 9th, 2020:
Restaurants to Resume Indoor Dining on September 30th
Governor Cuomo has announced plans to lift NYC’s indoor dining ban starting September 30th. Restaurants will operate at 25% capacity and patrons will be required to wear masks when they are not seated. Despite recent crackdowns on NYC bars that were violating social distancing laws, New York State has been able to keep the infection rate below 1% for several weeks. The Governor hopes lifting the ban will stimulate NYC’s economy, which relies so heavily on the restaurant industry.
Updated September 8th, 2020:
City Board of Elections Launches Ballot Tracking System
The city Board of Elections has rolled out a new tracking system for absentee ballots in order to prevent a repeat of the confusion that surrounded the June primary elections. The system will use an "Intelligence Mail Barcode" to allow voters to track when their request for an absentee ballot has been received, when the ballot has been shipped to them, and when their ballot has been accepted. Voters will also be notified if their ballot has not been accepted, election officials will provide guidance on how to correct the ballot and work with local election offices to rectify any errors so that the vote can be properly counted. If you would like to request an absentee ballot, you can do so here.
Updated September 3rd, 2020:
Malls and Casinos to Open, Indoor Dining Needs Better Enforcement
Malls and casinos will be allowed to open in the city starting September 9th, at 50% and 25% capacity, respectively. Governor Cuomo also said that indoor dining "should be open" in the city, but a lack of enforcement of social distancing protocols is stopping him from making the call. State inspectors have noted a significant increase in compliance over the past few weeks, but the governor insists that bars have still been a problem, and faults Mayor de Blasio for using only sheriff's deputies in the city and not the NYPD to enforce social distancing laws. For his part, the mayor believes that city bars and restaurants have been overwhelmingly compliant, and said he hopes to have a plan for restaurants by the end of the month. Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson yesterday demanded an immediate opening for city restaurants, saying that the restaurant industry is vital to the economic and cultural survival of New York City.
Updated September 2nd, 2020:
Gyms Reopen Today
Gyms across the city have been given the green light to reopen starting today. Under new regulations, gyms must be outfitted with filters in their ventilation systems, operate at 1/3 capacity, clean equipment and high-touch surfaces often, and enforce a mask rule for all visitors. Group classes and indoor pools will also remain closed. Over the next two weeks, health officials will conduct investigations for every gym in the city, turning to video calls with gym owners to do walkthroughs instead of visiting each gym in order to speed up the inspection process.
Uber to Require a Face Mask Selfie When Booking
Starting this month, Uber riders will be required to post a selfie of themselves wearing a face mask when reserving a car. Drivers have been required to do the same since May, and will be allowed to cancel the reservations for anyone who does not post the covered selfie, and vice versa. Face masks have been required for some time in Ubers, and all of their cars in the city are outfitted with a plastic divider between the drivers and passengers.
Queens Restaurant Leads Another Suit
A Queens restaurant has filed a $2 billion class action lawsuit against Governor Cuomo. The suit, which has been joined by as many as 350 other restaurants across the city, alleges that there is no reason for restaurants within the five boroughs to be forbidden from opening their indoor dining rooms, when those in Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester have been open for quite some time. Il Bacco, the leader of the suit, is located just one block from the Nassau county border, where restaurants are open at 50% capacity, which attorney James Mermigis (who also represented state gyms in a recent lawsuit that spurned the governor into reopening) claims demonstrates that the governors guidelines for indoor dining are, "random, arbitrary and unfair."
Updated September 1st, 2020:
NJ Reopens Venues, Indoor Dining and Movie Theaters; Still No Timeline in NYC
On Friday, New Jersey restaurants will be allowed to seat patrons inside for the first time in months, albeit at 25% capacity and with strict rules in place for social distancing. The state will also allow indoor performance spaces and movie theaters to reopen for Labor Day weekend, provided visitors sit at least six feet apart.
In New York, Governor Cuomo acknowledged that reopenings across the river put restaurants and other businesses in his state at a competitive disadvantage, but remained adamant about keeping indoor dining off the table for the immediate future in the city, claiming that one "super-spreader" event at a bar or restaurant could undo months of progress in fighting the coronavirus. Mayor de Blasio echoed the governors sentiments, saying that there would have to be a significant change in the virus, such as a vaccine, before indoor dining was back on the table.
School Reopening Delayed
After weeks of mounting pressure between City Hall, the Department of Education, teachers and parents surrounding the plans to reopen city schools, Mayor de Blasio announced this morning that the first day of school will be postponed from September 10th to September 21st, with "instructional transition and orientation" beginning online on September 16th. Teachers, principles and other school administrators will be able to use this extra time to ensure that school buildings are up to par to safely handle an influx of students, and fine tune their systems for remote learning. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said this morning that he approved of the mayor's decision to postpone schools and was pleased with the additional safety measures being taken. However, the UFT did clarify that they remained on alert to ensure that these measures were being adequately implemented, and would not take a teachers' strike off the table until they felt confident that they were.
Updated August 31st, 2020:
More Notable Liquor License Suspensions
Late last week, the State Liquor Authority suspended the liquor licenses of three more city venues, all of them in Brooklyn. The suspensions include House of Yes and Bed Stuy hot spot Lover's Rock, both of which were cited for crowding in their outdoor spaces and on the street outside and a lack of food service. Governor Cuomo's recent rules dictate that all alcohol orders must include a food item, and a state liquor law dating back to 1964 states that all bars must offer food of some kind.
City Launches Campaign to Reduce Trash
This summer, city parks and green spaces have been in the limelight as some of the only places New Yorkers can go to escape their apartments. Unfortunately, that rush of traffic has come with a rush of garbage, and complaints about litter are up 120% over last year. Now, the city has launched a new initiative, the "Toss Your Trash Campaign," in order to curb the amount of trash left around in parks. The campaign is largely awareness based, and will feature signs on bus stations, grocery stores and park entrances, a PSA video, and reminders on LinkNYC displays and around picnic tables and other locations within the parks. City Council members and borough presidents will also host coordinated cleanup efforts, more information about how you can volunteer to help keep the parks clean will be made available shorty.
Updated August 28th, 2020:
School Inspections Ongoing, Opening Date Remains Set
As of yesterday evening, city inspectors have tested 610 of the city's 1,300 school buildings for airflow. Of the 99 that have received a final report so far, 8% have reported at least one room that was deemed unacceptable for instruction due to a lack of airflow. The DOE plans to publish the results for every school online starting on September 4th. The DOE also unveiled new guidelines for blended learning, including expectations on how much time students of various ages should be expected to be instructed each day, and distributions of teachers between in-person and remote instruction. Several principals across the city voiced their frustration with the new guidelines, saying that the new breakdown will necessitate significantly more teachers which they cannot afford, and throws established plans in turmoil without enough time to adjust before schools are set to open on September 10th. Mayor de Blasio insists that there is enough time for principals to solve these issues, and is adamant about moving forward with the planned date to get back to school, saying that while the teachers and principals may object, he has the parents on his side.
Outdoor Dining Faces Drive-Thru Problem
Yesterday, a hit-and-run driver slammed into the street dining area of Cafe Alula in Greenpoint. The incident is the fifth time reported this summer that a car has crashed into an outdoor dining set up in the city, and fortunately resulted in only minor injuries. Still, the rate of incidence is remarkably low considering the fact that as many as 5,500 restaurants are now utilizing city streets as dining areas. Mayor de Blasio has said that he would be open to extending the Open Restaurants plan, which is set to end on October 31st, and has no immediate plans to bring back indoor dining.
Surprise Fireworks Thanks to MTV
Shortly before 11pm, a large portion of the west side was treated to a large fireworks display as part of MTV's VMA pre-recorded video segments. The display was originally scheduled for 8pm, but was delayed due to inclement weather. As you can imagine, everyone was stoked about more fireworks—including one DoNYC staffer who thought, "ugh, not again."
Updated August 27th, 2020:
MTA Unveils "Doomsday" Plan
Yesterday, the MTA unveiled a doomsday plan that they say they will be forced to implement if they do not receive aid from the federal government. The plan calls for a 40% reduction in service, which equates to an eight minute increase in wait times on the subway, and 15 minutes on buses. The agency will also suspend planned work on signal replacement and infrastructure improvement, and eliminate a program that provides accessible vehicles to handicapped customers. Of course, a fare increase is also likely, raising the cost of a swipe to $3.75. The MTA also warned that without aid they would be forced to make dramatic cuts to staff, leading to layoffs of as many as 7,200 transit workers in the city and 850 Long Island Railroad employees. The plan is still hypothetical at this point, and will not go into effect until 2021. The MTA has until December 31st to vote on a budget for next year.
NYIVA Sues SLA Over Live Music and Ticket Ban
A group of independent bars, restaurants and venues have joined forces under the New York Independent Venue Association to file suit against the State Liquor Authority in response to the SLA's clarification last week that prohibited venues from advertising or charging for live music held in outdoor spaces. Various venues across the state joined the suit, including Littlefield, the Graham, the Sultan Room, Birdland Jazz Club and the Capitol Theatre. Julie Kim, co-owner of LittleField and sister-bar Parklife, voiced her frustration at the states seemingly arbitrary distinctions in what types of businesses are allowed to reopen, saying, ""That seems so strange, how is [indoor bowling] safer than being outside, being 12 feet away from performers who are already doing stripped down shows because they don't allow amplification of music? It's so difficult already to navigate during COVID as a small business owner, and they're making it even harder." The suit alleges that the prohibition on advertising constitutes a violation of the first amendment, and that the SLA has established a precedent of being unclear about restrictions and fining venues thousands of dollars for violating rules that didn't even exist only days prior. A spokesperson for the SLA said that the guidance they issued explicitly banning ticketed concerts and advertising music events was not new, merely a clarification, and all of those things were already prohibited. They also said that while the SLA does not comment on pending litigation, they stand by the states data-driven approach to reopening and firmly believe that the measures are necessary to keep New York's infection rate - already one of the lowest in the country - where it needs to be.
Updated August 26th, 2020:
City Councilman Pushes to Open Streets to Cultural Institutions
Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced yesterday that he plans to introduce legislation to City Council that will allow cultural institutions to hold open rehearsals and performances in parks, Open Streets, public plazas and more. The proposed bill will allow any nonprofit arts organization or venue to apply online for outdoor space to host their programming just like how eateries applied for the Open Restaurants program. The program is set to run to at least January 31st, 2021, guaranteeing that these cultural institutions will be able to put on performances even if their normal venues are forced to remain closed longer than expected. According to Van Bramer, "Getting artists and performers out and allowing them to sing and dance, perform, and make people laugh is imperative for their survival, but also for the survival of the people of the city of New York."
Updated August 25th, 2020:
New York Approved for Lost Wages Program
Yesterday, FEMA approved New York State to receive funding to provide an extra $300 per week in unemployment insurance payments. New York applied for the program on Friday, after President Trump dropped the initial requirement that states pay an additional $100 per week to those on unemployment in order to be eligible for the $300 federal payment, which Governor Cuomo said was not feasible. The state will now work with FEMA to deliver the funds, which will likely be back-dated to August 1st, when the additional $600 in federal unemployment money from the CARES act expired. The additional FEMA money is set to expire on December 31st, or whenever the $44 billion allotted in the president's executive order runs out, which will likely be much sooner. New Yorkers who receive a minimum of $100 per week from state unemployment insurance will be eligible for the additional funds.
More SLA Suspensions, BK Club Put on Blast
This week, 11 more bars and restaurants in the five boroughs had their liquor licenses suspended by the SLA for violations of social distancing policies. A Brooklyn club known as "Illmore" has also been uncovered for hosting raging parties with live music on Evergreen Ave in Bushwick after videos were uncovered on Instagram.
Updated August 24th, 2020:
Gyms Reopen Across State, Get Opening Date in City
Today, gyms across the state are officially cleared to open per Governor Cuomo's announcement last week. In the city Mayor de Blasio put a different timeline on reopening, as he claimed that all available inspectors were preoccupied with school buildings in order to ensure that they met requirements in order to allow students back inside by September 10th. Now, the mayor has set a date that gyms can expect to open: Wednesday, September 2nd. Gyms in the city must adhere to strict guidelines in order to ensure safety, including limiting capacity to 33% and following extensive cleaning protocols. City gyms will also be prohibited from hosting indoor group fitness classes, and pools and communal showers will remain closed.
Hampton Jitney Struggles with Distancing
The Hampton Jitney is facing strong criticism on social media for allegedly violating its own protocols on social distance. According to a video put out by the Jitney, they have reduced capacity on all routes, enacted a new cleaning regiment, and will make wipes and hand sanitizer available on all buses. In practice, it looks like has not been happening. Multiple people have posted photos and videos to Twitter showing full buses running at 100% capacity with every seat full, and complain about a lack of availability of cleaning supplies.
Mayor Unveils Outdoor School Plans
This morning, Mayor de Blasio announced that all schools in the city would be allowed to set up classrooms outdoors. Principals will be able to move desks and chairs outdoors in order to allow teachers to use yards and courtyards to hold classes. Schools can also apply for additional space on sidewalks around their buildings to set up additional spaces for learning. The mayor promised that any school that applies by Friday, August 28th will receive a response next week.
Updated August 21st, 2020:
All New Yorkers Now Eligible for Absentee Ballot
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will make all New Yorkers eligible for an absentee ballot. The legislation adds "temporary illness or disability" as a possible reason to receive an absentee ballot, which Cuomo says can include anyone who is concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus at a polling site. The legislation also amended the requirements for when the Board of Elections needs to receive the absentee ballot: now, any ballot post marked on or before Election Day and received up to a week after Election Day will be counted, and any ballot without a post mark but received by the day after Election Day will be counted. New Yorkers can request an absentee ballot now for the November election.
Restaurants Plan Class-Action Lawsuit Against Mayor, Governor
A coalition of 100 restaurant owners in Staten Island and Bay Ridge are planning a class-action lawsuit against Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over restrictions on indoor dining. According to restaurant owners, they feel that the bar is being moved on them, and the mayor's recent statement that indoor dining may not be an option until a vaccine is widely available was the last straw. The owners feel that the city is being discriminated against, as every other region in the state was allowed to resume indoor dining after meeting infection criteria that the city has surpassed. The New York Hospitality Alliance is not a part of this suit, but head Andrew Rigie says that they are not against the action, although it is "unfortunate it had to get to this point," as he would prefer to work cooperatively with the governor.
SLA Enforces Ban on Ticketed Events
This week, the State Liquor Authority clarified its position on ticketed events and live music, stressing that any ticketed or promoted live music or comedy events are not allowed at this point. The SLA does allow live music and DJs at restaurants that are currently open for outdoor dining provided they have the proper permits, but stressed that the event cannot be a draw for the venue, and must be merely complimentary to the experience of eating. As such, any ticketed events or covers for entry are not allowed, and restaurants may face fines or other punishment for advertising performances in their spaces.
Updated August 20th, 2020:
Governor Cites Poor Compliance As Obstacle to Reopening Indoor Dining
The New York Hospitality Alliance hosted a press conference yesterday demanding information about when restaurants in the five boroughs could expect to open for indoor dining. Executive Director Andrew Rigie argued that New York City has consistently met or exceeded all of the goals other regions of the state were expected to meet in order to allow restaurants to open indoors, yet there is still no information about when city restaurants can do the same. Rigie also complained that while outdoor dining has helped, it was never meant to be a substitute for full functionality, and that restaurants cannot continue to survive with outdoor seating alone, especially as summer ends. Governor Cuomo remained adamant on his decision not to ease restrictions for city restaurants in a press conference this morning, saying "Westchester never had the problem that New York City had. Nassau never had the problem that New York City had. They are two totally different environments, and are we more carefully in New York City because of those factors? Of course we are." He also stated that there is a pattern of non-compliance among restaurants and bars in the city that far exceeds that of neighboring areas.
Teacher Strike Possible as Schools Reopen
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew spoke in no uncertain terms yesterday, stating that city teachers are fully prepared to strike if they do not feel that schools are safe when they open in September. The UFT issued a comprehensive set of guidelines that they say must be met before teachers return to schools. A spokesperson for the Department of Education called the UFT's statements "fear mongering" and claimed that the DOE has followed an unparalleled and rigorous evaluation of school buildings, saying that teachers simply do not want to return to school, regardless of the measures put in place to ensure safety.
Updated August 19th, 2020:
No More Free Bus Rides
Starting August 31st, strap hangers will once again have to pay their fare to ride city buses. According to Interim President Sarah Feinberg, the MTA would love to provide free service to all New Yorkers, but the agency is facing losses as high as $200 million a week, and can no longer afford to offer the service without fares. In order to make fare collection safer and more efficient, the MTA is installing OMNY readers have been installed at the front doors of Manhattan and Staten Island buses, and at the rear doors of Manhattan Select buses. They will also be installed on buses in the Bronx in the coming month.
Schumer Backs Save Our Stages Act
Senator Chuck Schumer joined James Murphy and members of the National Independent Venue Association outside Baby's All Right yesterday afternoon to announce that he will co-sponsor the Save Our Stages Act. The act seeks federal assistance for venues, which have been shuttered since the earliest stages of the pandemic and are in danger of closing permanently. "I will do everything I can to get this done, 'cause it's so effin' important," Schumer said, as he likened losing venues across the city to losing your liver or your right arm. If you haven't written to your representatives about the importance of the Save Our Stages Act, you can do so here with an automatically delivered, pre-written message.
Flushing Urinals Can Spread Coronavirus
A new study from China's Yangzhou University indicates that flushing a urinal can spread the Coronavirus. According to researcher Xiangdong Liu, "Urinal flushing indeed promotes the spread of bacteria and viruses," and COVID-19 particles can be launched up to two feet in under six seconds when flushing a urinal and hang in the air for over a minute, plenty of time to infect the urinal user. According to Liu, face masks should be required in all public restrooms.
East Village Party Promoters Sue SLA Over Shut Down
On August 7th, the State Liquor Authority suspended the liquor license for Cloister Cafe, the COVID home of former Meatpacking club Provocateur, claiming that the restaurant frequently violated the state's 11pm curfew, held events with over 50 people, and displayed no enforcement of social distancing requirements like masks, food with alcohol sales, and physical distance. They also found the club guilty of 33 significant fire and safety code violations. Now, the club owner and Provocateur operators have filed suit against the SLA, claiming that the SLA suspended their license based purely on an article on Gothamist, which they said was based purely on a pair of Instagram posts. The suit also alleges that the club was within its rights to operate past 11pm.
Updated August 18th, 2020:
Gym Opening Put on the Back Burner in NYC
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that gyms across the state could open for business as early as next Monday, albeit with strict restrictions. In order to open, gyms must abide by a 33% capacity limit, HVAC systems must meet guidelines, and masks must be worn at all times. Localities are responsible for inspecting each gym either before they open or within two weeks of opening. In the city, Mayor de Blasio said that it would be a while before gyms are allowed to open. De Blasio decided that the inspections must be carried out before the gyms can open their doors; however, city inspectors are currently tied up working on schools to ensure safety for students and teachers, meaning there is no definite timeline on when gyms will be able to be cleared.
De Blasio Looks to Reduce Reliance on Hotels for Shelters
Mayor de Blasio said in a statement yesterday that he would look to wind down their reliance on hotel rooms to safely house the city's homeless population. “It’s important to note that as the situation, the health situation has continued to improve, we’re going to start the process of figuring out where we can get homeless individuals back into safe shelter facilities and reduce the reliance on hotels,” he told reporters. A spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services was quick to say that de Blasio's statement did not indicate an immediate change in policy, and that they will "inform communities when our City is ready to take that step."
10 More Bars Have Licenses Suspended
Ten more bars across the city had their liquor licenses suspended this week. Most notably, MSG pre- and post-game spot Tempest Bar on 30th and 8th Ave had their license pulled on Saturday, following an investigator's report that detailed more than 20 people standing and drinking on the street outside the bar, and the same number inside sitting at the bar drinking, in direct violation of the governor's rules governing indoor dining.
De Blasio Snubbed at Democratic Convention
The Democratic National Convention kicked off last night in its new virtual format, featuring a montage of the 2020 presidential candidates. There were a few omissions from the montage, including Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The difference is: all of the other three ex-candidates are slated to speak at the convention in the coming days, leaving just de Blasio off the list. De Blasio claimed yesterday that he wasn't even aware that the convention was going on this week, saying that he was too focused on the daily projects of dealing with the coronavirus in New York to pay attention to politics on the national level. The mayor also said that he had not been contacted by Joe Biden's team to do any local campaigning for the presumed nominee, although he would be happy to do so if he was asked.
Updated August 17th, 2020:
Re-Openings on the Horizon
With New York successfully making it through all four phases of re-opening, we are now entering the bonus stage: Phase 5. We're not quite in the clear but things will start to return to "normal" as Governor Cuomo sees fit, based on the rate of infections and reopening results in other states.
Bowling alleys are able to open up at 50% capacity this week, with every other lane occupied. Due to the continued indoor dining restrictions, bowling alleys will only be able to serve food and drink if it is delivered to each individual party's lane via waitstaff. Balls and shoes will still be available for rent, with strict regulations in place for sanitization between games. Check back soon for a list of our favorite bowling alleys.
Museums and other "low-risk" indoor cultural institutions, such as aquariums, are set to re-open on August 24th. There will be a limit at 25% capacity, timed-ticketing with staggered entry, control of traffic flow, and frequent disinfection. Despite the opportunity to re-open, many cultural institutions like The Cloisters, American Museum of Natural History, and The Whitney are pushing back opening day until September.
Following last week's lawsuit against Governor Cuomo, gyms have also been given the a-ok to re-open at 33% capacity. Governor Cuomo has set strict guidelines for gym re-openings, including mandatory masks, HVAC specifications, and regular inspections to make sure all health restrictions are met.
Updated August 14th, 2020:
No 9/11 Tribute Lights This Year
This morning, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced they would not install the spotlights that have shone every year in tribute to those who lost their lives in the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil. Organizers made the decision to cancel the regular memorial citing concerns for the safety of the large crew needed to install the lights due to the coronavirus. Instead, the memorial and museum are working to plan an alternative tribute, lighting the spires and facades of tall buildings across the city blue.
1,500 Gym Owners Sue Governor Cuomo
A coalition of gym owners have filed suit against Governor Cuomo for the right to reopen. The class action suit, which names over 1,500 gym owners in the state including over 500 in the city, seeks to end the restrictions on gym openings immediately and win compensation for owners who have lost revenue. James Mermgis, who represents the gyms, said that the gyms, "want to be able to open up in the same way that other businesses have been opening," and claims that they can do so safely. Governor Cuomo has remained firm on keeping gyms closed, stating that they have been a known source of infections in other states. A similar (albeit smaller) suit filed in early July failed to produce the intended results for gym owners in Long Island.
Updated August 13th, 2020:
Eviction Removals Paused Until October 1st
Thanks to a new memo from New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, tenants facing eviction cannot be forcibly removed from their homes until October 1st. Eviction proceedings can still continue for renters who failed to pay their rent prior to the onset of the virus, and warrants can still be issued for eviction, although they will not be able to be enforced. Tenants who have been unable to pay their rent since the onset of the pandemic will still be protected from eviction by Governor Cuomo's orders barring evictions due to financial hardship caused by the Coronavirus.
NJ Allows for Schools to Reopen Fully Virtually, NYC Teachers and Principles Unions Call for Opening Delays
Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that school districts in his state would be allowed to reopen in a fully remote model, reversing his prior decision that schools across the state would open for in person classes. Districts that choose not to open their classrooms must submit an application to the governors office, including a plan on when they will return to schools.
In the city, unions representing teachers and principals appealed to the mayor, governor and schools chancellor to delay reopening, raising concerns that there was not enough time remaining before the start of the school year to properly prepare school buildings in a safe and responsible way. Mayor de Blasio insisted that the month remaining before schools are set to reopen would provide ample time to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of students and faculty.
Test and Trace Corp. Deployed in Sunset Park
A recent uptick in positive cases in Sunset Park prompted the mayor to deploy the city's Test and Trace Corp. en force. According to de Blasio the uptick was large enough to raise early warning alarms, although the exact cause was yet to be determined. The city will provide additional resources in order to answer those questions, including mobile testing vans that provide 15-minute results, door-to-door surveys and increased presence to make the city's quarantine assistance programs available. The Test and Trace Corp. has also stepped up their contact tracing activity, reaching out to hundreds of individuals likely to have come into contact with those who tested positive.
Updated August 12th, 2020:
38 New License Suspensions for Violations
Governor Cuomo announced an additional 38 bar and restaurant liquor license suspensions today, including Gran Torino in Williamsburg, the Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall in Astoria and The Hairy Lemon in Alphabet City. Overall though, compliance seems to have improved over the past few weeks. Over the past week, the state conducted almost 7,000 compliance checks and observed 162 violations, which is down over 50% compared to the week of July 30th when they conducted 835 checks and observed 41 violations.
City Launches Tenant Protection Portal to Aid Renters
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio unveiled a Tenant Protection Portal for renters across the city to access information, tool and legal assistance. The "one stop shopping" portal can also connect tenants to real people who can walk them through their rights. "If the coronavirus crisis was just a health crisis that would be one thing, but we know it’s so much more and the economic crisis has had such a painful impact on so many New Yorkers," de Blasio said. Those in need can access the portal at nyc.gov/TenantResourcePortal, or nyc.gov/PortalParaInquilinos for information in Spanish.
Updated August 11th, 2020:
All Masks Are Not Created Equal
A recent study conducted by researchers at Duke showed that all face coverings are not created equal, in fact, some may be worse than not wearing a mask at all. The study investigated the effectiveness of 14 different common types of face coverings at preventing possibly contagious droplets from entering the air around an infected person. Unsurprisingly, fitted N95 masks and three layer surgical masks were shown to be the best at minimizing the number of droplets dispersed in the air. However, the study showed that fleece masks and gaiters frequently broke larger droplets into smaller particles when breathing out, which is actually worse than not wearing any kind of face covering, since smaller droplets hang in the air longer than large ones. The full study is available here.
Updated August 10th, 2020:
Trump Executive Order "Impossible on the State"
Over the weekend, President Trump issued a series of executive orders to step in on coronavirus relief while negotiations stalled out in congress. These orders include deferring payroll taxes until December, continuing the halt on student loan payments and adding new unemployment benefits to replace the weekly $600 benefits provided by the CARES act that expired at the end of July. These new benefits will provide $400 a week to those left unemployed by the virus, but states will be on the hook for 25% of that, or $100 a week. States that do not agree to cover that portion will not be eligible for any funds from the federal government.
Governor Cuomo railed against the order on Sunday night, estimating that covering 25% of the additional unemployment benefits would cost the state upwards of $4 billion, which he called "laughable" given the current deficit the state is already facing.
School Schedules to be Released Next Week
On Friday, the Department of Education submitted their plan for reopening schools this fall to the state. Assuming the plan is approved, almost 75% of students will return to classes for at least some portion of each week, as around 25% of families chose to remain fully remote when school opens. Schedules for students will be released starting next Monday, August 17th, and be fully distributed by the following Monday.
MTV VMAs Take to the Streets
The MTV 2020 VMA Awards are taking a new approach. The event, originally scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center on August 30th, will now consist of a series of outdoor concerts across the city with limited or no attendees in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. The award show will be hosted by Keke Palmer, and feature performances by BTS, J Balvin and more.
Updated August 7th, 2020:
"Safe and Just Reopening Plan" for Restaurants
As restaurants across the city struggle to survive without indoor dining options in the city, leaders in the restaurant industry have set their sights beyond the current predicament and hope to address systemic inequalities and create a future for the industry that is safe, equitable, and fair. A new coalition of restaurant owners and workers including celebrity chef/owners David Chang, Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio have proposed a "Safe and Just Reopening Plan" in an open letter to the governor. The plan is centered on four main pillars: elimination of a sub-minimum tipped wage, allowing tip sharing with back-of-house staff, payroll tax relief for restaurants, and a 5% safe reopening surcharge. They believe that forcing restaurant workers to rely on tips "creates a system that encourages rampant sexual harassment of women, reinforces a wide delta of inequity of race, mass disenfranchisement of immigrants, people of color and working poor," and state that seeing the effects of a drop of tips during the pandemic has highlighted the injustices of the system across the board.
Today is the Deadline For Parents to Decide on In Person Learning
Today is the deadline for parents of students in the public school system to decide whether they want their children to participate in hybrid in person learning this fall, or remain fully remote. Parents who do not fill out the DOE form here will automatically be signed up for hybrid learning in September. Students will be able to opt-out of in person learning and switch to a fully remote system at any time, but students who begin the year fully remote will only have the option to move into classrooms at select intervals throughout the year.
Eviction Uncertainty as Housing Courts Reopen
As housing courts reopen across the city, many residents are left with uncertainty about whether or not they may be evicted. Governor Cuomo signed an executive order this week allowing courts to suspend deadlines on civil litigation, including evictions. The order lasts until September 4th, and is not mandatory. It allows individual courts to decide whether or not to postpone individual cases at their discretion. Residents who have not been able to make payments due to economic hardship caused by the pandemic are still protected, but those who missed payments prior to the onset of the pandemic in March and those who face eviction for other, non-monetary issues are subject to eviction now. Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio said that the city is currently looking into options to prevent city marshals from carrying out eviction orders and hopes to "make sure we are being as smart and flexible as possible to avoid economic evictions," but ultimately must follow the state's laws.
Updated August 6th, 2020:
Indoor Dining Still a Long Way Off
Restaurant owners across the city have been pushing Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for information about when they can expect to open for indoor dining, with little success. According to NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Riggle, "The whole situation is absolutely devastating," more than month after indoor dining was pulled from the city's reopening plan. Addressing mounting frustrations that restaurants are allowed to serve indoors in every other region of the state and a lack of information released indicating when that may be possible in New York, Mayor de Blasio said yesterday, "I think it’s a post Labor Day reality from my point of view to assess it."
Boozy Ice Cream Now Legal in New York
New York state will now allow the production and sale of ice cream infused with hard liquor. Previously, it was legal to create ice cream with beer, wine or cider, but the state just paved the way for dairy manufacturers to go straight to the hard stuff. Under the new law, liquor-infused ice cream must contain no more than 5% alcohol, and must be labeled accordingly.
New York Venues Band Together to Plead for Support
More than 150 venues around the city have banded together under a new banner, the New York Independent Venue Association, in order to plead for support from the federal government in order to stay afloat. The group is an offshoot of the National Independent Venue Association, which launched the Save Our Stages campaign to urge concert goers to contact their congressmen to support legislation to help fund independent venues. According to the NYIVA press release, the average New York venue will need as much as $300,000 to avoid permanently closing if they are not allowed to open until 2021, which seems like the most likely scenario given the current state of the virus in the county.
Updated August 5th, 2020:
City Parts with Health Commissioner
Yesterday morning, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced her resignation after expressing concerns that Mayor de Blasio had "sidelined" her administration while working on plans to reopen the city. Shortly after the announcement came from her department, the mayor convened a press conference to introduce the new commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokski. The mayor also stated that Dr. Barbot's resignation letter was preceded by his office's decision to let her go over the weekend.
Checkpoints Entering the City
Starting today, the New York City Sheriff's Office will conduct random stops at checkpoints at major bridges and tunnels entering the city in order to educate travelers about New York's mandatory quarantine rules. In announcing the program yesterday, Mayor de Blasio said, "The idea is we don't want to penalize people, we want to educate them, we want to make sure they're following the rules." In order to ensure fairness, the officers stationed at checkpoints will be stopping cars at a pre-determined interval in order to educate them about the mandatory quarantine, including providing information about the requirements of the quarantine and how to obtain free food delivery, tele-medicine appointments with doctors, or even hotels in which to stay.
Updated August 4th, 2020:
Outdoor Dining Will Return in 2021
Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday that the city will bring back its outdoor dining program in 2021, regardless of the status of the virus at that time. In his announcement the mayor cited the overwhelming success of the program, which has allowed more than 9,000 restaurants across the five boroughs to bring tables and chairs to sidewalks and streets. He expects that restaurants could begin setting up their tables by at least June 1st, 2021, if not sooner. He is also looking to extend the current end date of October 31st for outdoor dining, but that will largely be dependent on infection rates and weather in the fall.
Judge Rules Absentee Ballots Missing Postmarks Must Be Counted
Federal Judge Analisa Torres ruled yesterday that the New York Board of Elections must count primary ballots that were invalidated due to a missing postmark. In her ruling, Judge Torres stated, "When voters have been provided with absentee ballots and assured that their votes on those ballots will be counted, the state cannot ignore a later discovered, systemic problem that arbitrarily renders those ballots invalid," and stressed that these issues were largely the fault of the USPS, not the voters. In order to be counted, the ballots must have been received by the BOE by June 25th, two days after the primary. They must also be otherwise free from errors, as the postmark was the only invalidating factor addressed in this ruling. There are a number of primaries that remain very close, including the race between incumbent congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and progressive Suraj Patel, who currently trails by under 4,000 votes.
Teachers Protest School Reopening
Yesterday afternoon, over 200 teachers, school aids, parents and students marched to protest the mayor's school reopening plan. The teachers carried fake coffins and even a guillotine to show their dissatisfaction with the plan to return to in person classes in September, which they believe puts their lives in danger.
19 More Liquor License Suspensions
The governor continued his strict enforcement of social distancing protocols for state bars and restaurants this week as the State Liquor Authority suspended the liquor licenses of another 19 venues. To date, they have suspended the licenses of 83 businesses across the state, and processed just short of 600 charges. The recent suspensions include Congress on Court St., George Keeley's on the Upper West Side, Shinsen on the Bowery and more. You can see the full list on the state's website here.
Updated August 3rd, 2020:
Illegal Boat Party Ends in Arrests
On Saturday, the East River party boat Liberty Belle returned to port after a night of reveling to an unwelcome surprise: the NYC Sheriff's department ready and waiting for their arrival. Over 150 people enjoyed a 3-hour party cruise aboard the Liberty Belle without any mask requirements or other social distancing measures in place. Upon their return to shore, the party's two promoters were arrested and issued desk appearance tickets for serving alcohol without a license from the State Liquor Authority, storing alcohol without a permit, and other offenses. All of the booze on board was also seized by the sheriffs. The boat's captain was also served with a summons for not displaying the proper identification on his ship.
15 More Open Restaurant Streets Added
Over the weekend, the city added 15 more streets to its now-extensive Open Restaurants program. On the Upper West Side the largest strip of Open Streets yet debuted on Amsterdam Ave, a 13 block stretch between 97th and 110th St. Plus, Korea Town is now open, and long-time favorite Wo Hop will be serving on a partially closed Mott Street (albeit with reduced hours; Open Streets close at 11pm, so you won't be able to stumble in at 3:45am for now). The city now holds a total of 62 participating streets, which will remain closed to vehicular traffic on the weekends through October 31st. A full list of Open Streets is available here.
You Can Rent a Backyard at the South Street Seaport
New York has always been the city where you can have everything, except of course a backyard. The Greens, a new space on the rooftop of Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport is looking to change that. Now, you can rent your own "backyard," a nearly-200-square foot mini lawn complete with a cooler, lounge chairs, a giant projector screen, food and drinks delivered right to you, and lawn games like giant jenga and bocce. Reservations at The Greens are free, but require a $1 booking fee, which will be donated to charity. A reservation will be tough to come by, but they'll be available from 11am to 11pm every day here.
Struggling Event Venues Look for Options
Without concerts, weddings, corporate events and fundraisers, it's no surprise that event spaces across the city have been struggling to stay afloat. From super-luxe wedding venues like Gotham Hall, the Plaza and the Rainbow Room to hotel ballrooms and restaurant party rooms, owners and organizers are looking for any way to bring in revenue to remain open. While some rally and hold out hope for stimulus from the federal or state government, others are working on adapting to be able to host much smaller capacity events once they get the go-ahead from the governor. Venues that would normally host as many as 300 people are looking for ways to break even hosting events for 25. Another surprising option is to rent the space to schools. The city has put out a call for proposals to lease space for public school children to the tune of $40 per child per day, and venue owners are optimistic they can get even higher offers from private schools and colleges. Gotham Hall's Managing Director Allan Kurtz told the NY Post, "We can set up a lecture hall for 200 people." While it may not bring in as much as a wedding with a six-digit price tag, it may be enough to keep the lights on - and help schools reach their goals of reducing capacity.
Updated July 31st, 2020:
MTA Adds Mask Dispensers to Buses
Continuing their efforts to make masks available to any straphanger who needs one, the MTA has added mask dispensers to 100 buses in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. They plan to continue to roll out the dispensers to as many as 400 buses along 20 routes across all five boroughs by next month. Each dispenser contains 50 free surgical masks that are available to anyone who may have forgotten their own. They will be refilled daily as necessary. According to Craig Cipriano, the president of the MTA Bus Company, ""When you wear a face covering on public transit you're doing so out of respect for your fellow passengers and the health and safety of our bus operators. Plus it's the law."
"Confusing and Absolutely Frightening" Plan to Reopen Schools
Yesterday, the city released a plan to reopen schools, which a faction of the United Teachers Federation immediately tweeted was "confusing and absolutely frightening." The new official plan, developed in collaboration between the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Health + Hospitals and the NYC Test + Trace Corps., calls for all faculty to be tested within 72 hours of the yet-to-be-announced first day of school, sets guidelines for extensive cleaning procedures, and outlines various procedures for classroom and full school closures in various infection scenarios. Critics fear that this model will lead to a "stop-and-start" system that ping-pongs between remote and in person learning in a way that leads to more confusion. There are also concerns from the teachers custodial engineers unions that city schools will not be able to maintain the expected levels of cleanliness, and that the Department of Education simply doesn't have the funds to ensure that school buildings are properly adapted and cleaned to make a full return to school safe.
Mayor de Blasio added additional criteria for the opening today, saying that school openings would be delayed if the city's infection rate crosses the 3% threshold. According to Governor Cuomo's guidelines, regions must maintain an infection rate under 5%, but the mayor decided to lower the threshold given the nature of the city's crowding and transportation systems. The city has maintained an infection rate under 3% since early June.
Wave Hill Gardens Reopen
The sprawling public gardens of Wave Hill reopened yesterday, providing a quiet oasis to Bronx residents. The 28-acre gardens will be open from Thursday through Sunday each week, but will require advance registration here. Admission will be free for the first two weeks, and face masks will required for entry and to use the restrooms, but they may be removed throughout the gardens as long as social distance is possible.
Updated July 29th, 2020:
12 More Queens Bars Suspended for Social Distance Violations
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo continued his string of enforcement on bars caught violating social distancing protocols, as 12 more establishments in Queens had their liquor licenses suspended. At a press conference on Monday, the governor said, "I want establishments to know that we will continue to diligently enforce the law. That’s what this is—it’s enforcing the law."
A full list of bars and restaurants that had their liquor licenses suspended is available here.
Subway Fare and Property Tax Hikes Feared, More States Added to Travel Restriction List
Five new states and territories have been added to New York State's Travel Restriction list, including Illinois, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Kentucky. The list now covers more than half of the country, a total of 36 states from which visitors must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in the state. Governor Cuomo said on Monday that the Port Authority police and other enforcement agencies have begun issuing fines and summonses for travelers who refuse to fill out a form that specifies their travel information, including where they will be quarantining, and have been following up with travelers randomly by phone and in person.
The Governor also said that without state and local aid from the federal government, New Yorkers will feel dramatic effects from the state's $13 billion budget shortfall. These include potential spikes in property taxes, fare hikes on the subway and LIRR, and dramatic cuts to education budgets. The governor rallied for NY senators and representatives to push hard on a federal stimulus bill that will provide aid for the state.
Chainsmokers Drive-In Concert Draws Ire from State Officials
On Saturday, The Chainsmokers held a large scale drive-in concert in Southampton that has drawn severe criticism from state officials over the apparent lack of social distancing at the event. The concert organizers, The Know Experience, say that there were strict rules in place requiring all attendees to monitor their temperature in advance of the show, report if they had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and remain in their cars the entire time except to use the bathroom. However, social posts and videos from the event show thousands of people out of their cars and crowding around the stage. Dr. Howard Zucker, the NYS health commissioner, said that the event never should have happened in the first place, as the state has forbidden non-essential gatherings of more than 50 people. He also stated in a letter to the Southampton Town Supervisor , "I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat." Governor Cuomo added yesterday that the state would be conducting a full investigation of the reported violations at the concert.
Updated July 27th, 2020:
SLA Cites 105 Violations, Suspends Licenses for 6 More Bars
Over the weekend, the State Liquor Authority has cited 105 NYC and Long Island bars and restaurants for social distancing violations. The SLA also suspended the liquor licenses for six more bars in the city late last week, which brings the number of downstate bars whose licenses have been suspended up to ten. Governor Cuomo promised more information to come this week about suspensions for the 105 establishments cited over the weekend.
Pools Open During Heat Wave
As the city sweats through yet another summer heat wave, several pools across the city are opening to help keep us cool. Mayor de Blasio previously cleared 15 city pools to open, and on Friday, eight of those pools across the five boroughs opened their doors, and seven more will follow on Saturday, August 1st. A full list of open pools and hours are available here.
City Adds 1.7 Miles of Open Streets, Closes 2.7 Miles of Previously Opened Streets
On Friday, Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would be adding 1.72 miles of Open Streets to help New Yorkers get outside with plenty of room for social distancing. However, along with the announcement came the news that the city would be returning 2.77 miles of streets that had previously been part of the program to vehicular traffic. The mayor is also bringing back the city's Play Streets program, which will use the open streets to provide safe play areas for children, providing sports equipment and games for local kids especially around NYCHA developments. More information, including a list of open streets, is available here.
Updated July 22nd, 2020:
State Begins Suspending Liquor Licenses
This week, the State Liquor Authority began following through with Governor Cuomo's threat to suspend liquor licenses from New York Bars that ignore social distancing protocols and regulations. Brik Bar and M.I.A. in Astoria and Maspeth Pizza have all joined the White Horse Tavern and had their licenses suspended, as has a strip club on Long Island. The governor continued to take a hard line approach to bars that host crowds of people, indoors or out, saying on Twitter yesterday, "Let's be clear. Outdoor dining is permitted statewide. Outside drinking is not."
Two New Drive Ins Open in the City
Last week, Brooklyn welcomed a new drive in theater, courtesy of Rooftop Films. Yesterday the long-time city cinema favorite announced a second location to open next month in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Queens Drive-In will be co-hosted by the New York Hall of Science and the Museum of the Moving Image, and will be located on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science.
Updated July 21st, 2020:
Governor Cuomo Adds 10 More States to Mandatory Quarantine List
Governor Cuomo announced this morning in conjunction with New Jersey and Connecticut that ten more states are now under the mandatory 14-day quarantine restriction. The new states include Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington making a total of 31 states. This news comes off the heels of last week's new enforcement measures (outlined under the July 14th update below) introduced by the Governor to hold travelers accountable. See here for a full list of restricted states and more info.
Updated July 20th, 2020:
Phase 4 Starts Today
The city officially entered Phase Four of Governor Cuomo's reopening plan today. While the majority of indoor businesses expected to open have been removed from the list, New Yorkers will soon be able to enjoy a myriad of outdoor arts and entertainment venues, including zoos, botanic gardens and historic city landmarks. Malls, gyms, movie theaters, indoor museums and more will have to wait until further notice to reopen.
Baseball is Back
On Saturday night, the Mets and Yankees faced off in the city's first baseball game of 2020. The spring training exhibition game at Citi Field was played without fans, although the Mets have begun selling cardboard cutouts so that die-hard fans can get themselves in the stands. The MLB's condensed, 60-game season will officially begin on Thursday, July 23rd, so the Met's won't have to worry about their defeat this weekend affecting the standings.
40 New Open Restaurants Streets, Program Extended to October
On Friday, Mayor de Blasio announced that he would add 40 new streets to the city's Open Streets/Open Restaurants plan, citing massive success in bringing back jobs and maintaining safety through the outdoor dining initiative. He also extended the program until October 31st, so New Yorkers will be able to dine outside well into autumn. A full list of open streets added is available here.
Updated July 17th, 2020:
Cuomo Introduces 3-Strike Policy for Bars and Restaurants Violating Distancing Policies
According to Governor Cuomo, "The state has looked at over 5,000 establishments in downstate New York and found many cases of failure to comply. It's wrong, it's dangerous, it's selfish and it's also illegal." To address these violations, the governor introduced a new 3-strike policy yesterday that will force bars and restaurants found guilty of repeated infractions to close. The governor also stated that serving to-go drinks and cocktails without food would not be tolerated. This was already the State Liquor Authority's rule, but the governor specified that it was going to be enforced in earnest going forward. These actions are all being put in place in order to curb crowds of people outside of many establishments, where social distancing is not possible to enforce as it is when patrons sit at tables that are placed strategically to ensure six feet of distance between groups.
Teachers Union Weighs in on School Reopening
Michael Mulgrew, the head of the United Federation Teachers Union, made it clear yesterday that he was prepared to use the strength of his powerful union to make sure that schools that pose a strong risk of spreading the coronavirus will not open. While he noted that we were still a long way from September and things could change, he stated, "..if you asked me right now, if the school system is going to open in September, I would say 60%, that we'd be fully remote."
Updated July 16th, 2020:
Phase 4 Likely Starts Monday, Without Indoor Openings
Governor Cuomo announced this morning that New York City was on track to enter Phase Four of reopening on Monday. However, in a similar move to how the city entered Phase 3 without indoor dining, the city will not allow any additional indoor facilities like malls and museums to open. Outdoor arts and recreation spaces like zoos and botanic gardens will open as planned, but the governor did not give a timeline on when museums and other indoor spaces will be allowed to resume their normal activities. He did, however, mention that the Met could continue its plans to reopen starting on August 29th, but did say "we'll see" about how feasible that reopening looks when the time comes.
Rent Assistance Applications Open Today
Applications for the New York State COVID Rental Assistance Program went live today. Eligible New Yorkers will be able to receive a one time subsidy to help cover their rent, paid directly to landlords and housing providers. The funds for the program come from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, part of the CARES Act. The funding will only be accessible to New Yorkers who earned less than 80% of the median household income in their county before the pandemic, and will cover the difference in the burden of rent based on COVID-related economic strain, not the full value of the rent. The application will only be available for two weeks.Check out the state's website to learn more about the program, and to find out if you qualify.
Iconic NYC Landmarks to Open with Phase 4
As the city prepares to enter Phase 4 on Monday, several major city landmarks have shown their intention to open to the public. Liberty Island, Ellis Island, and the Empire State Building Observatory are all expected to open next week. Of course, visitors will have to comply with strict social distancing measures, including mandatory face masks on ferries to the islands (face masks are expected to be highly recommended, but not required once visitors arrive on the islands). Indoor access and tours of the Statue of Liberty itself will not open until further notice.
Updated July 15th, 2020:
New York Extends Unemployment Coverage
The New York State Department of Labor has extended benefits for state unemployment insurance from 26 weeks up to 59 weeks. Now, New Yorkers who are out of work will be able to rely on state unemployment checks for more than twice the previous duration. The extension only applies to state unemployment, not the additional $600 that the federal government has been providing per week, which is set to expire at the end of July. Workers who receive coverage under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program but not traditional unemployment benefits will not be eligible for the extension either, although that program does cover up to 46 weeks of benefits.
Hudson Yards Plans Reopening
Hudson Yards is preparing to reopen their shopping center, along with their major attractions, the Vessel and the Edge observation deck. They are working closely with the Mount Sinai Health System to ensure the city's newest observation deck, the highest in the western hemisphere, remains safe for visitors by exceeding the minimum capacity and sanitization guidelines imposed by the city and state. The facilities when New York City enters Phase Four of reopening, tentatively scheduled for July 20th. They will also offer free admission to all healthcare workers and paramedics for the rest of the year.
Cuomo Expands Travel Restriction List
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo expanded New York's travel restriction, adding Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico to the list of restricted states. Visitors from these states, or any of the other states on the list that already included Florida, California and many more, must quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in New York. There is some good news, as Delaware just became the first state to be removed from the list.
Updated July 14th, 2020:
Cuomo Announces "Travel Enforcement Operation"
New enforcement for the state's restrictions on travel from COVID-19 hotspots starts today, with enforcement teams meeting flight arrivals at the gate to ensure all arrivals who have been to flagged states fill out the DOH traveler form. Travelers who do not complete the form will be subject to a $2000 fine and may be brought to a hearing and ordered to complete mandatory quarantine. Traveling by car or train from a flagged state? You're still required to fill out the DOH travel form online. More information on the enforcement measures is available here.
State Criteria for Schools to Open
After responding to Mayor de Blasio's school opening plan by clarifying the state would have the final say last week, Governor Cuomo shared some concrete criteria to reopen the state's schools. Recently state positivity rates have bounced between 1 and 2%.
Updated July 13th, 2020:
Beach Concession Stands Open
This weekend, Governor Cuomo allowed concession stands at all state beaches to open. As always, the concessionaires must adhere to social distancing protocols. The prospect of fried food and ice cold beverages is just one more reason for New Yorkers to take advantage of nearby beaches as a relatively safe activity. According to the governor, "We made this decision based on facts and science, and in recognition that these concessions are largely outdoors and are similar to other businesses we have allowed to open with precautions as part of NY Forward."
New Farmers Market in Williamsburg
A brand new farmers market opened on Sunday in Williamsburg's Domino Park. The new market is on the smaller side, but features all of the essentials including fresh produce, bread milk, cheese and other dairy products and cut flowers, and will be open on Sundays from 9am to 3pm through November. Especially in the age of coronavirus, farmers markets have been hailed as great alternatives to traditional supermarkets since they allow shoppers to access fresh food in an outdoor environment that is more conducive to social distancing.
Updated July 10th, 2020:
NYC Cancels Large Events Through September
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced that permits for all large events in the city would be cancelled through September 30th, effectively banning parades, outdoor concerts and street fairs for the rest of the summer. The ban will not include protests, religious gatherings, or press conferences, but does unfortunately spell the end for this year's West Indian Day Parade and the Feast of San Gennaro.
Smaller events that take up less than one block, do not require amplification for sound and video, and do not interfere with the city's Open Streets program can still apply for permits.
White Horse Tavern Has License Suspended After Repeat Violations
On Wednesday, the State Liquor Authority suspended the historic White Horse Tavern's liquor license due to repeat violations of the governor's executive orders on social distancing. According to the SLA, they received reports of violations as early as June 6th that the tavern had as many as 100 people gathered outside, had set up an illegal bar, and was playing music to entertain patrons. The tavern also received several warnings and citations for serving alcohol without food, operating after mandated hours, and failure to supervise their premises. All told, the tavern was charged with 30 violations before their license was suspended. The tavern's case will be reviewed in court, but the suspension will remain in place until the SLA or a court changes their decision.
NY Gym Owners Sue Over Closures
Gym owners across the state have filed a class action lawsuit against Governor Cuomo, the Attorney General, and the State of New York over the governor's decision to remove gyms from the list of businesses allowed to reopen in Phase Four. The plaintiffs allege that the governor's ban constitutes unlawful seizure of private property for public use, as the gyms were forced to close for the public good of preventing the spread of the virus. They claim that they should be compensated for being forced to closed, and that many of their businesses will be forced to close if they are not allowed to open.
Updated July 9th, 2020:
WCS Parks (Zoos & Aquariums) to Open Soon
The Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and NY Aquarium are opening soon! Members can get tickets starting July 20th, with guest admission available starting on the 24th. There will also be some new changes in place to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy, including a new entry system where visitors will be required to reserve a date and time for their visit through September 7. Plus, masks will be required and sanitizing stations will be available throughout the park. If you are a healthcare worker, admission will be free to any of the five wildlife parks through Labor Day.
Mayor, DOE Unveil Plans for 20-21 School Year
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza unveiled a plan to reopen public schools with a "blended learning" model for the 2020-2021 school year. According to the new guidelines, individual schools will be able to select from two potential models, one which involves separating students into two cohorts, and one that involves three cohorts, in order to offer a mix of in-person and online classes without over crowding school buildings. Students and teachers will also have the option to go fully remote. More information about the plan, sample schedules, and cleaning procedures are available here.
The plan must still be approved by Governor Cuomo in order to go into effect. The governor is currently accepting proposals from all of the school districts in the state until July 31st, and is expected to make a final decision by August 7th.
Dekalb Market, Museum of the City of New York Reopen
The return to normalcy continues this week with the addition of two major city institutions. The Museum of the City of New York is preparing to open its doors at the end of the month, and Dekalb Market unveiled a new outdoor market presence earlier this week.
At Albee Square, the newly reopened Dekalb Open Air Market features several ordering stands, where restaurants from the subterranean Dekalb Market can process takeout orders, which are prepared in kitchens downstairs and delivered to customers without the need to enter the building. There are currently six vendors participating, with more to come soon.
The Museum of the City of New York joined the New York Historical Society and the Met yesterday when it unveiled its own plans to reopen. Starting July 23rd (assuming the city does not see a spike in coronavirus cases), the museum will open its doors five days a week, with safety protocols including a 25% capacity limit, one way staircases and strict mask requirements. The biggest addition upon reopening? The museum will unveil New York Responds, a new outdoor exhibit that showcases the city during the pandemic and documents the Black Lives Matter protest.
Updated July 8th, 2020:
MTA to Provide Commuter Info Via 9,000 New Digital Screens
The MTA announced yesterday that it will add 9,000 digital screens to subway stations across the city to provide additional information for commuters. The screens come equipped with new software, that will allow the MTA to send location specific news regarding train arrival times, last departure times for lines without 24-hour service, planned and unplanned service changes, and more info about train routes and stops during rush hour and other times with modified service. The MTA also hopes to be able to use the screens to alert riders when platforms are overcrowded before they enter the station, so that they can make a decision about whether or not to enter. The screens are expected to be installed at all 472 NYC subway stations by 2023.
Governors Island Reopening July 15th
Governors Island will officially reopen next week, with a new ferry ticketing system to ensure capacity limits and address access inequality. The island will not allow sports or indoor activities, but encourages "passive" activities like running, biking and walking, and food and beverage vendors will be open. Reservations for ferry tickets can be made online starting Friday with limited spaces to ensure proper social distancing protocols can be enforced. In order to address issues of inequality of access to the public space, the ferries will be free to all residents of the New York City Housing Authority, and ferries will depart from Atlantic Basin in Red Hook instead of the regular Brooklyn Bridge Park pier in Brooklyn on Saturdays and Sundays. More information is available at the Governors Island website here.
Jersey Movie Theaters Sue to Reopen
A group of movie theater chains in New Jersey have filed suit against Governor Phil Murphy for the right to open. The plaintiffs claim that while they support the governor's right to take steps to protect his constituents from the virus, they believe a blanket shutdown of all movie theaters is "neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights," and called Murphy's plan to allow certain businesses to open while forcing others to remain closed "unconstitutional and unlawful."
Updated July 7th, 2020:
Long Island, Hudson Valley Enter Phase Four
As New York City adjusts to life in Phase Three, our neighbors to the north and east are preparing to enter the final phase of Governor Cuomo's four-step reopening plan. The Hudson Valley (labeled as "Mid-Hudson" on the states regional map) entered Phase Four today, and both Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island will join them tomorrow. In Phase Four, residents will be allowed to indulge in low-risk arts and entertainment, and media production and professional sports will be able to reopen, albeit without fans in the stands. And yes, Storm King is considered a low-risk arts destination; one of the largest attractions in the Mid-Hudson region will open starting tomorrow for a members-only week, but will be accessible to the general public starting July 15th.
Connecticut Suspends Reopening
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced yesterday that he is indefinitely suspending his state's reopening procedures. Connecticut was expected to enter the third phase of its reopening plan soon, which would have allowed bars and restaurants to fully reopen, and allow indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people, up from the current limits of 25 people indoor and 100 outdoor.
New York State Fair Cancelled
Governor Cuomo announced yesterday that the annual New York State Fair will be cancelled. The State Fair, which normally brings hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to Syracuse over several weeks from late August through early September, In his statement, the governor said that it was necessary to cancel the fair because the risks are so high, saying, "That makes me personally very unhappy, but that is where we are.”
Updated July 6th, 2020:
Phase 3 Begins in NYC
Today, New York City entered Phase Three of Governor Cuomo's reopening plan with one notable exception - indoor dining at bars and restaurants will still be prohibited. Phase Three does come with the return of many personal care businesses, including nail and tanning salons, tattoo parlors and more. All of these businesses will require patrons to wear a mask at all times while on the premises. The city is also opening a variety of outdoor facilities, from dog runs to volleyball, tennis and basketball courts. Up until now, phases have progressed roughly every two weeks, but Phase Four, which includes entertainment and arts reopening, will likely be a lot longer away.
22 Streets Added for Outdoor Dining
Mayor de Blasio announced on Thursday that 22 streets across the five boroughs would open for dining as part of his "Open Streets" and "Open Restaurants" plans. The 22 locations will allow restaurants to use additional space on the sidewalk and street for table service, while the remainder of the streets are open for pedestrian traffic. The streets will be closed to vehicles to allow diners to spread out and enjoy the adjacent restaurants from 5pm to 11pm on Fridays, and from 12pm to 11pm over the weekend. A full list of locations is available here.
High Line, 9/11 Memorial Reopen
Yesterday, the 9/11 Memorial opened to the public for the first time since March. The memorial will follow strict guidelines, including making masks required for all visitors, and having hand sanitizer available for anyone, especially those who touch the name plaques.
Further uptown, the High Line also announced its return, opening next Thursday, July 16th. The narrow walkway will become a one-way thoroughfare, requiring all visitors to enter at Gansevoort Street and progress northward to 23rd Street. The north-most section between 23rd Street and Hudson Yards will remain closed for the time being. Visitors will also be required to make a free, timed entry reservation, which will be available on the High Line's website starting July 9th.
Updated July 1st, 2020:
8 More States Added to List for Mandatory Quarantine
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced eight additional states that qualify for the mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling into New York from COVID-19 hotspots. The eight new states include California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.
The quarantine applies to states that have a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over the same 7-day rolling average.
The full list of states on the travel advisory now includes:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Indoor Dining Postponed Indefinitely
This morning, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo made the decision to postpone indoor dining in NYC, originally slated to begin in Phase Three, for an indefinite amount of time. The mayor cited data from other states where cases are surging saying, "Indoors is the problem. The science is showing it more and more. We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City ... Even a week ago we were hopeful we could but it keeps getting worse and worse around the country."
Cuomo, who stated concern with reopening indoor dining days earlier, added "We are seeing troublesome signs across the country and we should be concerned about them. I am concerned about them." While Phase Three is still set to begin on Monday, including the return of personal care services and basketball, indoor dining will have to wait until Cuomo and de Blasio give the green light. In the meantime, the city is focused on expanding outdoor dining capabilities with "Open Streets" dining still a work in progress.
MTA Installs PPE Vending Machines, Reinstates Fares for Buses
The MTA will begin installing PPE vending machines at 10 subway stations around the city. The machines will offer face masks, wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer, available for purchase individually or in a bundle. The vending machines are located at Union Square, Herald Square, Penn Station, Port Authority, Times Square, Columbus Circle, Atlantic Ave and Roosevelt Ave. The MTA plans to use these initial vending machines as a trial, and will potentially add more based on use. They will continue to distribute free disposable face masks around the system.
The MTA also announced that they will begin charging for bus rides again starting in August. Fares have been waved throughout the pandemic, and passengers have boarded through the rear doors on buses in order to protect drivers. Soon, protective shields will be installed on all city buses, which will allow riders to board at the front of the bus and pay their fare as normal.
Beaches Open for Swimming Today, 15 Pools Open August 1
Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday that he plans to open 15 public pools across city by August 1st. The announcement came as part of the mayor's budget proposal, in which he called the pools a "targeted investment." Beaches across the city will also open for swimming today, for anyone who can't wait to get in the water.
Cuomo Extends Eviction Relief
Yesterday evening, Governor Cuomo signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act into law. The bill, which wad sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, promises to prevent landlords from evicting financially burdened tenants for unpaid rent throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords will be allowed to file suit to seek payment for unpaid rent, but will not be allowed to remove anyone from their home. Advocates for the bill see this as a meaningful step to protect New Yorkers starting immediately on August 20th, when the existing state moratorium on evictions ends.
Updated June 30th, 2020:
Indoor Dining Could Be Postponed
Spikes in coronavirus cases across the country have added to fears that indoor dining could be responsible for a surge in infections in New York. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would be sending state police and other officials into the city to observe levels of noncompliance and inform his decision as to whether indoor dining will remain on the table as the city looks to enter Phase Three of reopening next week. The governor will announce his decision tomorrow, Wednesday July 1st. This news comes on the wake of yesterday's announcement from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, which tabled state plans to open indoor dining indefinitely.
Broadway Theaters to Remain Closed Until 2021
Yesterday, the Broadway League announced that all Broadway performances in New York would be suspended for the remainder of the year. The League, which represents theater producers and owners, became one of the first major trade groups to cancel events in the city on March 12th, when they decided to postpone all live performances until mid April. Since then, they have extended the postponement twice, and have now decided to cancel all performances in 2020, and will issue refunds or exchanges on all tickets sold for shows planned before January 3rd, 2021.
Plans for Bronx Outdoor Dining Haven
The Italian restaurants on Arthur Avenue have long been a destination for both New Yorkers and out-of-towners to enjoy fine food. Now, the Bronx thoroughfare is preparing to dig even further to its Italian roots with a 100 table outdoor dining piazza. The plan, which is still pending, will close three blocks along Arthur Avenue to vehicular traffic on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday evenings and allow restaurants along the strip to serve up to 400 people at tables places along the road starting Friday, July 10th.
NYPL Lions Mask Up
Patience and Fortitude, the two marble lions who line the entrance to the New York Public Library's main branch, have joined the fight against the coronavirus. Yesterday, the two cats donned huge, specially made face masks (which DO cover their noses). The NYPL will open for grab-and-go service on July 13th, and visitors will be required to follow the lions' example and wear a face covering to enter.
Updated June 29th, 2020:
Federal Judge: NY Cannot Limit Religious Gatherings While Allowing Protests and Business Reopening
On Friday, Senior U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that New York State cannot limit religious gatherings while allowing protests and business reopenings. The case was brought to the federal judge on behalf of several Catholic and Jewish representatives from upstate and Brooklyn, and alleged that the governor, mayor, and state Attorney General violated the First Amendment by restricting people's right to worship. In his ruling, Sharpe pointed out that places of worship were treated less favorably than secular activities and limited to 25% capacity, while nonessential businesses across the state were allowed to operate at 50% capacity during Phase Two, and that they were “not justifiably different than houses of worship.”
The ruling is still being reviewed by the mayor and governor's offices, and they have yet to issue a response.
Updated June 26th, 2020:
Mayor de Blasio Says NYC Phase Three is on Track for July 6th
De Blasio announced yesterday that the city is "on track" to begin Phase Three of the state's reopening plan on July 6th. The final decision has yet to be made as Governor Cuomo has the last say on when regions can proceed to the next phase, but Mayor de Blasio noted, "The data is telling us 'yes' right now."
Phase Three will allow for indoor dining at restaurants limited to 50% capacity, sports in public facilities including basketball courts and soccer fields, dog runs, and gatherings of up to 25 people.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver added:
Our parks are hubs for active recreation and we’re excited to welcome all New Yorkers, both human and canine alike, back onto sports courts and dog runs for another safe and fun summer ... We’re committed to maintaining safe green spaces for all to enjoy and encourage visitors to wear a face covering, frequently sanitize their hands, and maintain distance between each other while out in parks.
Cuomo Announces "Random Checks" to Enforce 14-day Quarantine Policy
"If you fly into New York, we'll have your name, we'll know where you're supposed to be staying, there will be random checks," said Governor Cuomo on Thursday in regards to the new 14-day quarantine policy for people coming into New York from designated states where the number of cases is still on the rise. For a list of designated states, see our June 24th update below.
"You fly in here from another state, we know what flight you came in on. And we'll have inspectors who are randomly looking at the names on the list and calling to follow up to make sure you're quarantining. And if you're not you're in violation of the law and you will have a mandatory quarantine, and you'll be fined" added Cuomo.
The fine for violating the quarantine will be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
Updated June 25th, 2020:
Libraries and Museums Set Opening Dates
Starting July 13th, libraries across the city will begin to open for grab-and-go service, which they call the "first step in a careful, phased approach to reinstituting service at the city’s physical libraries." A small area in 22 branches across the five boroughs will be open for patrons to pick up and drop off books through orders placed online or over the phone. More information about the open branches and safety protocols is available via the websites for the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library.
Some of the city's biggest museums also joined the reopening news, as the New York Historical Society announced that they will open on August 14th, pending approval from city officials. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also set a date for its planned reopening for August 29th. Both the main Fifth Avenue location and the Met Cloisters will open with limited hours and additional restrictions in order to provide a safe environment for visitors. The Met also announced that it will be parting with its modern and contemporary art satellite, the Met Breuer, which it will sublet to the Frick Collection starting in July as the Frick undergoes major construction.
Cuomo Adds 50-Person Gatherings to Phase 4, Leaves Gyms, Malls and Movie Theaters Off Plan
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo added additional information to the state's four-phase reopening plan. He clarified that gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed once regions enter Phase Four, up from 25 people in Phase Three. Churches and religious services will also be allowed to expand their capacity from 25% to 33%. The governor has chosen not to differentiate between indoor and outdoor gatherings, unlike neighbors in New Jersey and Connecticut, which allow outdoor gatherings of up to 250 and 500, respectively. The governor also stated that a decision has not yet been made regarding movie theaters, gyms, and malls, which are not currently part of the fourth phase of reopening.
2020 Marathon Cancelled
The New York Road Runners, organizers of the New York City Marathon, announced yesterday that this year's marathon will be cancelled. The organization said in a statement that they had been optimistic about holding the marathon this year, but ultimately decided that holding the race, which boasts an astounding 50,000 runners from around the world and over one million attendees across the five boroughs posed too much of a safety risk amid a global pandemic. Entrants will be able to receive a refund, or defer their qualification to a race in the next three years.
Day Camps Cleared to Use City Parks
Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday that the parks department would begin accepting applications from both private and nonprofit day camps to operate within city parks. The mayor said that applications, which normally take 2-3 weeks to process, will be approved within a few days in order to allow day camps to begin operation as soon as possible. The camps must adhere to strict regulations in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but will provide a large influx of much needed childcare options for parents who are returning to work as the city reopens.
Updated June 24th, 2020:
NYC Beaches Open For Swimming July 1
Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday that city beaches will open for swimming starting next Saturday, July 1st. Lifeguards will be on duty to ensure swimmers safety. The mayor stressed the need to remain vigilant about social distancing protocols, including wearing a mask while at the beach and remaining a minimum of six feet apart even in the water.
Tri-State Governors Confirm Travel Advisory
Today, governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut confirmed a travel advisory mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone visiting their states from areas where coronavirus cases are surging. The advisory goes into effect at midnight tonight, and will apply to anyone visiting from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah & Washington. The list will be updated on the states' websites, which will be added here once they are live.
City Could Lay Off 22,000 Workers
The city is considering laying off as many as 22,000 workers in order to save $1 billion in expenses as the virus and subsequent lockdowns continue to diminish the city's budget. In April, the city's annual budget dropped from $95 to $89 billion, and today, Mayor de Blasio announced that the budget must be cut again, down to $87 billion. De Blasio said that the city will still need to find ways to cut an additional billion dollars even after layoffs in order to satisfy the budget constrictions if the city does not receive relief funding from the federal government or get permission from the state to borrow the money.
Alternate Side Parking Changes
Alternate side parking in the city has been suspended through most of the coronavirus pandemic, offering major relief to drivers who normally need to move their cars at least twice a week to accommodate street sweepers. Now, Mayor de Blasio is looking to overhaul the entire system, moving to cleaning streets on a once weekly basis instead of twice a week. Starting next week, alternate side parking will be reinstated (temporarily), but car owners will only need to move their vehicles on the later day posted on alternate side signs. The change will remain in place throughout the summer, whenever alternate side parking is in effect. The mayor said that the city will use this as a trial, and look to make the change permanent depending on the results of the reduced cleaning schedule throughout the summer.
23 More Miles of Open Streets, Cool Streets
Today, Mayor de Blasio announced an expansion of the city's Open Streets program, adding 23 miles of city streets, including 9 miles of protected bike lanes, to the existing 40 miles of streets closed to motorists. The city also announced a new Cool Streets program, which is designed to help New Yorkers in "heat burdened" neighborhoods. Streets in the Cools Streets program will be selected based on shade provided by overhanging trees, and will include sprinkler caps on fire hydrants to help keep residents, especially children, cool during the hot summer days. The mayor also said that he will bring restaurants in to the streets and connect the dots between the Open Streets program and the city's outdoor dining initiatives, with more information coming in the next few days.
Updated June 23rd, 2020
Cuomo Considers Quarantine for Out-of-State Visitors
As coronavirus cases continue to spike in many parts of the country, Governor Cuomo said that he is considering instituting a mandatory quarantine for visitors arriving in New York from states where infection counts are rising. In order to prevent a backslide, Cuomo said, "we’re seriously considering a quarantine just to make sure that people who come in from states with higher infections don't inadvertently increase our infection rate.”
NJ to Allow Outdoor Gatherings up to 250 People, Open Casinos
Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy increased the maximum capacity of outdoor events in his state from 100 to 250 people. The limit does not apply to political or religious events. Murphy also announced that New Jersey casinos may begin to open at 25% capacity on July 2nd with additional safety protocols in place.
Updated June 22nd, 2020
Phase Two Starts Today
New York City has officially entered Phase Two of reopening. Starting today, as many as 300,000 New Yorkers will return to work, and we can begin to enjoy outdoor dining at restaurants, haircuts, and a whole lot more. Some notable openings include Bronx Brewery's backyard opening today and Elsewhere's rooftop opening on Saturday, both of which will be enforcing social distancing guidelines. In Elsewhere's announcement the venue released the following guidelines:
- All patrons will be asked to perform a temperature check upon entry, and no patron will be allowed to enter if they have a temperature of 100.4° F or higher
- All patrons must wear masks at all times except when they are seated
- All food and beverages must be consumed at your seats
- More than 50 guests cannot be allowed on the roof at a time
- Parties must stand in queue 6 ft. apart (spacing will be indicated on the ground)
- Patrons cannot be within 100 ft. of the exterior of Elsewhere without masks and cannot congregate in large groups
- Patrons cannot consumer alcoholic beverages on the street
- We encourage customers to plan ahead by using our digital ticketing system rather than paper tickets.
- We encourage customers to use our cashless and contactless payment system.
Bronx Brewery released this graphic detailing how they plan to keep everyone safe:
For a full list of businesses allowed to open in Phase Two, see below.
Catholic Churches to Open in Brooklyn and Queens
The Diocese of Brooklyn announced this weekend that they will begin reopening churches in Brooklyn and Queens for masses this week. While places of worship of all faiths are eligible to open at a reduced capacity as Phase Two begins, the Catholic Church is the first large community of faith to make a statement about their reopening procedures. Weekday masses will resume on Friday, June 29th, and weekend masses will follow starting on Saturday, July 4th. The church has also issued additional guidance on procedures regarding communion, including mandating face coverings when approaching a priest to receive the Host, and a moratorium on communion wine. The Archdiocese of New York has not yet made a statement regarding when churches across the rest of the city will open.
Updated June 19th, 2020
NYC Will Officially Move to Phase Two on Monday
"We've done the impossible" said Governor Cuomo in this morning's announcement confirming Monday as the official start of Phase Two for NYC. The next phase will include opening outdoor seating for restaurants (albeit, with some complications - see below), salons and barber shops, playgrounds and pools, in-store retail and more. As many as 300,000 more New Yorkers are expected to head back to work on Monday. Here is a bulleted list of what can open in Phase Two:
- In-person retail operations
- All business activities where the core function takes place within an office setting
- Vehicle sales, leases, and rental activities statewide
- Retail rental, repair, and cleaning activities
- Playgrounds and pools at local governments' discretion
- Commercial, non-residential building management activities
- Hair salons and barbershops. This does not include nail salons, tattoo parlors, or any other non-haircutting-related personal care services or activities, like beard trimming, nose hair trimming, facials, manicures/pedicures, makeup application, threading, tweezing, or waxing.
- Real estate activities
- Outdoor dining
"Open Streets" Seating Won't Start with Phase Two Launch
Phase Two begins Monday, however, the city's "Open Streets" seating plan won't begin with it. While Phase Two includes outdoor dining, the planned expansion of outdoor seating into closed-to-traffic streets and plazas won't start until July. The news is not entirely surprising, as hospitality insiders and the city council had been voicing concerns about the lack of preparedness and information available regarding the plan over the past couple weeks. Applications for "Open Streets" seating will finally begin today, amidst concern that immediate restaurant openings without the program up and running will only create more of the unsafe sidewalk crowding that occurred last weekend.
Existing outdoor seating, like backyards, patios and existing sidewalk seating, is set to return with the start of Phase Two, along with new "curb lane" seating separated from traffic by barriers. Restaurants can also request seating in plazas through their local Business Improvement Districts.
Colleges Can Hold "Face to Face" Classes This Fall
Governor Cuomo confirmed that some some measure of in-person learning will be cleared to occur at New York's colleges and universities this fall. NYU and Columbia have both previously issued statements of intent to continue face to face learning this year, while the CUNY system has told staff to prepare for a "primarily virtual Fall 2020." Specifics are still in development.
Updated June 18th, 2020
NYC Playgrounds Will Open on Monday June 22nd
This morning, the mayor announced that the city's playgrounds will reopen on Monday. Social Distancing Ambassadors will monitor the playgrounds to remind people to stay 6 feet apart, hand out face coverings and provide reminders about hygiene rules. Playgrounds have been closed by Governor Cuomo's order since April 1st. Team sports are still not allowed, so hoopers will need to keep working on your handles until we can get some shots up.
The news is a welcome relief for parents across the city at a loss for ways to entertain children, especially with school years over or ending soon.
One Year Rent Freeze for Rent-Regulated Tenants
The Rent Guidelines Board approved a one year rent freeze and 1% increase on the second year of two-year leases. Taking effect October 1st, the freeze will keep rent prices from increasing for two million New Yorkers. Landlords were fighting to increase rent by 2% on one-year leases and 5% on two-year leases. It's a light win for tenant advocates, but a far cry from the full freeze, forgiveness or decreases that many residents hit hard by the pandemic have been hoping for.
Updated June 17th, 2020
US Open, Hot Dog Eating Contest to Go On Without Spectators
With much of this year still in limbo, we can take solace in the fact that two landmark summer events will still go on in the city, albeit without their normal crowds. The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Fourth of July and the US Open in August both announced that they will indeed go on as scheduled, and fans will be able to watch from home but not in person. There's nothing in the world that will make you feel better about your quarantine eating habits than watching Joey Chestnut devour 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Confusion Around Phase 2 in NYC
Less than a week away from the projected start of Phase 2, New Yorkers still have a lot of questions. Phase 2 is tentatively scheduled to begin on June 22nd, assuming indicators of the spread of the virus remain positive. However, Mayor de Blasio said in a statement yesterday that he wanted to keep expectations low, and did not anticipate moving into the next stage of reopening until early July. The official notice on when the city will begin Phase 2 is not expected until the 22nd, which will likely leave restaurants with outdoor seating and other businesses allowed to reopen scrambling to make last minute plans. Additional guidance has not yet been provided to industry leaders, who claim they are still lacking information about regulations for reopening.
Updated 2:13pm: Governor Cuomo said in his press conference today that New York City is currently on track to begin Phase 2 on June 22nd, but more information is still needed. The mayor and governor will make the decision to open together, pending more information regarding the impact ongoing protests and Phase 1 reopenings have on the spread of the virus.
Hospitals Cleared to Allow Visitors
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that he was lifting the ban on non-medical visitors to hospitals and group homes across the state. Visitation policies will be at the discretion of the facilities, but hospitals in every region of the state will be allowed to accept visitors immediately, and group homes can resume visitation on Friday. Nursing homes were left off of the order, as the governor said he did not believe "the reward justifies the risk at this point.”
Updated June 16th, 2020
Nassau Coliseum Closes Indefinitely
Today, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum operator Mikhail Prokhorov announced that the venue would close indefinitely. Porkhorov's Onexim Sports and Entertainment group, which runs the venue on behalf of Nassau County, currently holds a 49-year lease on the arena. They will close the venue while seeking new investors, who will have the opportunity to assume the lease in exchange for taking on approximately $100 million in loans owed by the venue. While it's unclear when the county will be able to find a new investor to run the arena, it does look like the Islanders may be heading back to Brooklyn as they await the completion of their new Belmont Arena, currently expected in time for the 2021-2022 season.
Updated June 15th, 2020
The Governor is NOT happy with reports and video of large crowds on non-socially distanced, unmasked New Yorkers crowded around bars and restaurants that came out throughout the weekend. After receiving 25,000 complaints against businesses ignoring re-opening rules, mostly from Manhattan and the Hamptons, Cuomo took a strong stance on enforcing scofflaws, including both individuals and businesses, by insisting on better local enforcement of mask wearing and social-distancing and threatening to revoke the liquor licensing for non-compliant bars and restaurants.
Cuomo warned that without better enforcement from local government, the state could intervene and re-PAUSE problematic localities, including Manhattan. City Hall responded, saying "imprisoning people" isn't the answer and pointing to outreach to restaurants/bars and "social distancing" ambassadors distributing masks and encouraging crowds to disperse, but did not address why there was little-to-no enforcement happening in the concerning videos and reports of thousands of unmasked day drinkers in close proximity in the streets this weekend.
Protest organizers and advocates also responded to the videos, with many pointing out that any uptick in cases would likely be attributed to protests despite the reckless exposure outside bars shown in the videos.
NY State Camps Won't Open, But Youth Sports Will Resume
Sleepaway camps in New York won't open this summer due to concerns around COVID-19 and the related MIS-C condition that has afflicted some children who had coronavirus, including three deaths, as well as proximity issues and the feasibility of social distancing enforcement. Day camps can start re-opening in the state on June 29th.
Cuomo also clarified where youth sports fall on the re-opening timeline, grouping low-contact sports like baseball, softball and gymnastics in phase 3.
Updated June 12th, 2020
State Clears Pools & Playgrounds to Open
Governor Cuomo gave local authorities the all-clear to open pools and playgrounds at their discretion yesterday. Mayor de Blasio responded to questions about beaches and pools by saying the city is not ready yet, but suggested officials would move quickly once they deemed it safe to allow swimming. Mask-wearing and social distancing measures will be enforced once pools open. There is no update from the city on when pools and playgrounds in NYC might open, but de Blasio has hinted at pools and beaches opening for swimming at some point this summer.
In a similar response regarding playgrounds, the mayor said, “We are watching health indicators closely and simultaneously working on a plan so when it’s safe to open playgrounds, we can.”
Guidelines for Safe Sex During the Pandemic
NYC Health issued guidance for safe sex during the pandemic. It's important, but it's also pretty funny. Here are some highlights:
- "Face masks are encouraged, kissing is discouraged."
- "Go with a consistent sex partner."
- "If two is company then three (or more) is definitely a crowd."
- "Feces (poop)" can transmit COVID-19 so "Rimming (mouth on anus) might spread the virus."
- "Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that
allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact."
- Standard safe sex practices like condoms and dental dams are highly encouraged.
- "Masturbate together. Use physical distance and face coverings to reduce the risk."
View the full guidelines here.
City Launches $3mm Grant Program For Restaurants
Small restaurants in neighborhoods hit hard by COVID-19 are eligible for a $30,000 grant to support payroll. 100 restaurants will receive the grants, which are intended to employ 1,000 restaurant workers at $20/hour. The plan has received some criticism, both for its limited scope (there are 26,000 restaurants in NYC) and the potential long-term hazards restaurants face from accepting a grant which would pay restaurant workers above the $15/hour minimum wage. Executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance Andrew Rigie summed it up as "dangling short term monetary relief to financially devastated restaurants in exchange for long term financial disaster, by forcing them to sign on to their misleading wage campaign."
Updated June 10th, 2020
Restaurant Reopening Plans Revealed
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo revealed more details for restaurants and bars resuming indoor dining business as part of Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan. According to the new guidelines, establishments will be able to open at 50% capacity, provided tables are placed at least 6 feet apart or have a divider placed between them. Groups will also be limited to 10 people, but do not necessarily need to be from the same household. While many restaurants will face serious hardship while operating at only 50% capacity, the number is higher than the 30% that was initially expected. More information about the reopening plan, including details about restaurant requirements, is available here.
MTA Ridership Jumps with Reopening
As the city entered Phase 1 of reopening on Monday, bus and subway ridership leapt by over 200,000 over the previous week as a new group of workers got back to their daily commute. In total, over 800,000 New Yorkers rode the subway on Monday. While that's still a far cry from the 5.7 million rides the MTA expects on an average weekday, NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said "It was an important day for New York to feel like its bouncing back a little bit there was a real spring in people’s step, there was a bustle about the system."
While subway ridership was up to 15% of their normal capacity, busses were up to nearly 40% of their regular ridership. Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would be adding 20 additional miles of bus lanes across the city to accommodate the increase in ridership while ensuring social distancing goals are attainable on the busses. The addition falls short of the MTA's initial request of 60 miles of new bus lanes. More information about new bus lanes is available here.
DOE Plans for September School Opening
Yesterday, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent an email to principals and other school administrators outlining a variety of options that the Department of Education were considering to reopen schools, saying, "since we cannot yet predict what September will look like, we can—and we must—be prepared for a range of possibilities."
So far, those possibilities largely rest on a "blended learning" system that integrates in-person and online classes, as well as a potential to stagger class schedules and school opening times in order to reduce crowding in school buildings.
Updated June 8th, 2020
Phase One Begins Today
New York City enters phase one today as part of the four-phase reopening plan set forth by Governor Cuomo. In this phase, as many as 400,000 people are expected to get back to work including construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain as well as select retail for curbside pickup. If you're wondering what "select retail" includes, expect to see the following:
- Clothing stores
- Direct selling establishments
- Electronics and appliance stores
- Electronic shopping and mail-order houses
- Furniture and home furnishing stores
- General merchandise stores
- Health and personal care stores
- Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
- Lawn and garden supplies stores
- Office supplies, stationery, and gift stores
- Used merchandise stores
- Shoe stores
- Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and bookstores
- Other miscellaneous store retailers
For a detailed list of other doors opening up in the construction, manufacturing and wholesale industries, check out this article.
The MTA will be preparing for more commuters with a 13-point action plan to help reduce the risk. See the plan here:
While the MTA is planning on returning to normal, the overnight shutdown between 1am and 5am is still in effect.
As workers go back to their jobs, there will be many new protocols they will be required to adhere to as presented in this list of mandatory and recommended best practices created by New York State, including social distancing floor markers, mandatory cleaning after every shift, one person per elevator and more.
After two weeks the city will review its statistics to make sure they are still hitting the state-mandated benchmarks before they can approve the beginning of phase two. The graphic below explains which industries are set to reopen in each phase. However, things are subject to change as we've already seen outdoor dining move up to phase two from its previously scheduled spot in phase three.
Photo: Governor Cuomo's Office
Updated June 5th, 2020
No New COVID-19 Reported Deaths on Wednesday
The city reported no new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday for the first time since March 12th. While we still have a long way to go in the fight against the virus, this is certainly a happy change from the 500 daily fatalities the city faced in mid-April.
New Regulations Set for Outdoor Dining
Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday during his press briefing that the city "will provide a massive expansion of curbside seating" for restaurants beginning in phase two of reopening. The new "Open Restaurants" initiative follows the guidelines set forth by the city council last month, and will allow restaurants on the 45 miles of open streets to co-opt the space in front of their business for outdoor seating. The Department of Transportation will also work to identify plazas and parking spaces to use for seating. DoT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said, "We don't want to be heavy-handed. Enforcement will be a light touch." The city will still be enforcing social distancing, requiring tables to be placed six feet apart and all employees to wear face coverings, although diners will not be required to wear masks once they are seated. Phase one is slated to begin on Monday.
Updated June 4th, 2020
Outdoor Dining to Begin in Phase Two
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced restaurants will be permitted to have outdoor seating beginning with Phase Two of reopening. This means that seven regions of New York will begin offering outdoor seating today. NYC can expect to begin phase two toward the end of June depending on how the city's level of COVID-19 cases reacts after Phase One.
New Changes Coming to the MTA
The MTA announced yesterday that it is returning to regular service at the beginning of Phase One along with some changes to help keep New Yorkers safe from the spread of COVID-19. There will be voice messaging reminding commuters that Phase One subway trips are reserved for essential workers and essential trips only. They will also require face coverings and offer, hand sanitizer, masks and PPE in vending machines for those who don't have it. Commuters will also notice new floor markings and platform controllers to encourage social distancing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also suggested a seven-point plan he is requesting the MTA follow:
- Increase Frequency of Service: Increase frequency significantly during peak hours while limiting the increase in ridership to allow for maximum social distancing. Return to regular rush hour service for Phase 1. The MTA should prepare to accommodate at least another 100,000–200,000 more riders per day.
- Capacity Limits on Buses/Trains: Limit capacity on buses and trains to allow for social distancing. Skip stops if over capacity.
- Limit Station/Train Overcrowding: Monitor platform crowding and temporarily close stations when needed during peak hours.
- Social Distancing Signage/Markers: Clearly mark six feet of distance on platforms, trains and buses. Demarcate specific seats on trains and buses for riders, block off every other seat to maintain social distance.
- Hand Sanitizing Stations: Install hand sanitizer in all stations and buses, including next to MetroCard vending machines and any other high-touch locations.
- Face Coverings: Require face coverings for all individuals using subways, buses and trains. Provide face coverings throughout the system to ensure that all riders have them. The city will initially provide one million FREE face coverings, and the MTA and State should match that commitment.
- Personnel: City will work with MTA to identify personnel to help promote and enforce social distancing.
In response to the plan, a spokesperson for the MTA said, "Like many of the mayor’s ideas — this is nice in theory but utterly unworkable," Abbey Collins, the MTA spokesperson went on to say "The mayor’s plan would allow us to serve only a tiny percentage of our riders - likely around 8%. We look forward to hearing more from the Mayor and NYPD on their plans for enforcement and compliance with this proposal."
Free COVID-19 Testing Expands to All New Yorkers
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced COVID-19 testing will be free and available to all New Yorkers, stating, "Widespread testing holds the key to re-opening our city safely... After months of fighting, we are finally able to say that every New Yorker who needs a test will get one." There are over 150 testing sites in the city now and 36 city-run testing sites offer the free tests on a walk-in basis.
Updated May 29th, 2020
NYC on Track to Begin Reopening June 8th
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that NYC is on track to meet all seven requirements by June for reopening by June 8th according to the plan set forth by the state. Mayor de Blasio stated "people are going to have to improvise" when it comes to making decisions about going out and using the subway. Cuomo also stated, "Remember that reopening does mean we are going back to the way things were," Cuomo said. "Life is not about going back, nobody goes back, we go forward. And it's going to be different. It is reopening to a new normal, a safer normal. People will be wearing masks, people will be socially distant."
Updated May 28th, 2020
Cuomo OKs Mask Requirements, Will Not Open NYC
Today, Governor Cuomo announced a new executive order which would permit businesses to deny entry to anyone not wearing a face mask or other face covering. In a tweet today, the governor said, "People have a right to jeopardize their own health (I don’t recommend it).
People don’t have a right to jeopardize other people’s health."
Today also marks the final day of the NY PAUSE program, which implemented business closures and social distancing guidelines. As the program draws to a close, the state will instead move towards restrictions based on the governor's four-phase reopening plan. While many regions are preparing to enter phase two this weekend, New York City has yet to meet requirements on hospital and ICU bed availability, and will not begin reopening until those requirements are met, regardless of the status of the PAUSE program.
City Council Considers Expanding Outdoor Dining, Caps Third Party Fees
Yesterday, City Council Members Corey Johnson and Antonio Reynoso proposed new legislation in order to expand outdoor dining for city restaurants. According to the councilmen, the bill would go beyond allowing restaurants to serve on the sidewalk immediately outside their buildings, and require the city to identify new locations for service, including streets, closed streets, and other public spaces. They also seek to create a fast and easy permitting process to allow restaurants to quickly take advantage of the program once they are allowed to reopen for dine in service.
The City Council also approved a bill to cap the fees that third party delivery services could charge to 15%, with an additional cap on other fees at 5%, adding to a total of 20%. The bill is seen as a win for the struggling restaurant industry, which has long stated that the high fees charged by these delivery services cuts into their profitability.
NYPD To Target Congregation Outside Bars
In keeping with recent remarks against the number of people congregating outside bars across the city, Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday that he has instructed the NYPD to begin targeting such crowds in nine specific neighborhoods, which are deemed "bar heavy." The mayor specifically identified the Upper East Side, East Village, West Village, Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Long Island City, Astoria, Hell's Kitchen, and City Island as targets, but stated that more areas could be added to the list as these congregations appear. The city will also continue to promote its new "Take Out…Don’t Hang Out" publicity campaign, urging New Yorkers to continue to frequent bars for carry out service, but not to hang around and sip their drinks outside of them.
Updated May 26th, 2020
Governor OKs Gatherings Up to 10 People for "Any Lawful Purpose"
On Friday, a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union prompted Governor Cuomo to sign a new order allowing New Yorkers to gather in groups of up to 10. The suit, brought on behalf of a Manhattan woman who was arrested twice for participating in anti-lockdown protests, claims that the governor's initial order banning gatherings infringed upon citizens' First Amendment Rights to peaceful assembly. The order is intended only to allow groups to assemble to express their rights, and is not intended to be taken as an invitation to host social gatherings. Those who assemble must abide by relevant social distancing guidelines, including wearing face masks and remaining a minimum of six feet apart.
New York State Offers Loans for Businesses Left Out of Federal Relief
New York State has unveiled a new loan program in order to provide assistance for small businesses who were not able to secure funding from Federal Government programs. The New York Forward Loan Fund will provide $100 million in loans to businesses with 20 or fewer employees, or small landlords who own less than 50 rental units. The loans will not be forgivable like the federal PPP or SBA loans, and will instead have to be repaid over a five year period with a low interest rate. Applications open today, May 26th at 12pm. Visit the NYFL site here for more information or to submit your application.
NYC Now the Only Region Yet to Begin Reopening
Over the weekend, the Long Island and Mid-Hudson regions both passed the pre-requisites to begin reopening by midweek, leaving NYC to be the last region still working on passing all seven prerequisites to reopen. It has passed four and is still not passing the percent of open hospital and ICU beds or contact tracers.
Updated May 22nd, 2020
Proposed Bill Will Allow Booze To-Go To Stay
Yesterday, State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced new legislation to make Governor Cuomo's executive order allowing bars and restaurants to sell to-go drinks permanent in order to help the hospitality industry recover. The bill includes the same restrictions as the governor's original executive order: all drinks must be sold in a sealed container, and must be sold with food.
Additional Streets Open This Weekend
Mayor de Blasio announced this morning that the city will add another 12 miles of open streets across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. This brings the total to 45 miles of open streets, exceeding the mayor's initial goal of 40 miles for car-free space for pedestrians and bikers to get exercise outside while maintaining social distance. A full list of open streets is available here.
Updated May 20th, 2020
Connecticut Begins Reopening
Today, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont officially lifted his state's Stay-At-Home order, allowing offices, stores, restaurants and more to reopen at 50% capacity with intense cleaning procedures in place. For retail stores, that means limiting entrances and placing social distancing markers around their locations to ensure that people remain six feet apart. For offices, that means requiring all personnel to wear a face covering while at work, except if they are working in an isolated location like a private office. Many companies have also encouraged workers to remain at home if they are able. Restaurants will only be allowed to open outdoor seating areas, and tables must be a minimum of six feet apart. They will also use disposable menus, and must close by 11pm on the weekend and 9pm during the week.
Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Reinstate Presidential Primary
Last month, the New York Board of Elections made the decision to cancel the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary on the basis of safety, claiming that since Joe Biden was the only candidate remaining in the race, allowing New Yorkers to venture to the polls would be unnecessary and potentially dangerous amidst the spread of the coronavirus. Opponents of this decision, including Andrew Yang who brought forward a suit against the BOE, stated that this action was unconstitutional, and deprived New Yorkers of their essential right to vote for the candidate they believed in and have an impact on the delegates who were sent to the party convention this fall. On May 5th, a federal judge ruled that the cancellation was indeed unconstitutional, and the primary was reinstated. Today, a court of appeals upheld the decision of the lower court, ensuring that New Yorkers would be able to cast their ballot on June 23rd. Governor Cuomo has also issued two executive orders to make it easier for people to vote via absentee ballot and reduce crowding at the polling sites.
Updated May 18th, 2020
Social Distancing Enforced Across City Parks
This weekend, nice weather brought New Yorkers out in droves to enjoy parks across the city. While most of us have grown accustomed to following social distancing guidelines while sunbathing, this weekend also brought new enforcement in a few parks. In Domino Park in Williamsburg, large circles have been painted across the lawn to illustrate exactly how far people need to stay apart. In Central Park, police closed the gates to the Sheep Meadow around 2:15 on Saturday afternoon in order to limit capacity.
Mayor to Crack Down on Crowds Outside Bars
Parks were not the only places New Yorkers ventured this weekend. On Saturday, the New York Post reported a wave of people congregating and drinking outside of bars that offer to-go windows, particularly on the Upper East Side and Greenpoint. Mayor de Blasio promised to crack down on this kind of crowding on Sunday, stating, "If a bunch of people are congregating, that's a gathering. What did I say the other day? The NYPD is going to focus its enforcement on gatherings."
Mayor Will Not Reopen Beaches, May Use Fencing to Preserve Closure
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio reiterated that he will not reopen city beaches for Memorial Day, or any time in the near future. Beaches around the city will remain closed to swimming indefinitely, but are currently open for walking, much like grassy parks around the city. The mayor did say, however, that he has put fencing in reserve, and will use the fences to close off the beaches completely if crowding becomes an issue.
On Long Island, the city of Long Beach has not yet made a pubic decision about when their beaches will open. Jones Beach will indeed open on Friday with a limited capacity and social distancing measures enforced, as the beach is park of a State Park. Jacob Riis Park will also be open with limitations, and all permanent bathrooms will be closed and replaced with port-a-johns throughout the park.
Updated May 15th, 2020
Governor Extends PAUSE, Opens Beaches
This morning, Governor Cuomo officially extended New York State's PAUSE orders until May 28th. The orders will not apply to the five regions which have met the seven requirements for reopening (The Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and now Central New York), which are proceeding with Phase One of reopening starting today. The governor also stated that the remaining regions of the state, including New York City, will be exempted from the PAUSE orders and eligible to reopen as soon as they meet the requirements concerning infection and death counts, testing, tracing, and hospital availability.
The Governor also announced today that beaches will indeed be open for Memorial Day. The move comes as part of a joint agreement between New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, which will all open their state's beaches the Friday of Memorial Day. The beaches will be limited to 50% of their original capacity, and masks will be required where social distancing is not possible. Cities, towns and counties across the state will also be allowed to open their beaches with the same limitations, and can add their own criteria for safety. There is no word as of the time of writing as to whether Mayor de Blasio intends to open New York City beaches.
Updated May 14th, 2020
21 Miles of Streets and Bike Lanes to Open Up
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday the opening of 12 more miles of streets to pedestrians and 9 miles of bike lanes starting today. The new openings will encompass streets in all boroughs and you can see exact locations on the NYC.Gov website. This makes a total of 30 miles of open streets for pedestrians and cyclists.
North Country Region will Begin Reopening on Friday
The North Country region, which encompasses seven counties and shares a border with Canada, will be the fourth region permitted to reopen on Friday. The county is welcoming the news with caution as Garry Douglas with the North County Chamber of Commerce says, "Before they can reopen, they must have a health and safety plan," when speaking of the phase one businesses that will open first.
Bills Pass to Protect Restaurants
Many restaurants have relied heavily on third-party delivery apps to bring them business during the pandemic, which has forced them to give an extremely high percentage of their profits to these apps. City Councilman Francisco Moya says, "If third-party food apps were nibbling away at neighborhood restaurants before COVID, they're bleeding them dry now." In an effort to protect restaurants, the New York City Council has now passed a bill capping delivery app fees at 20% for deliveries and 10% for app orders. Additionally, they banned the practice of delivery apps charging restaurants for phone calls placed through search engine ads that the apps use, whether or not the phone call results in an order.
In another effort to support local restaurants, the Department of Consumer Affairs waived consent fees for sidewalk cafés from March 1 to May 31, allowing restaurants to provide outdoor seating without any cost. Plus, any fees that have already been collected will be returned to the restaurants.
Additionally, another new bill has passed to the relief of restaurants and other local businesses that protects them from harassment by landlords. If a landlord attempts to threaten their tenant with a number of tactics, they could be faced with a fine up to $50,000.
To learn more about the bills and protections, head over to Eater for more details.
Updated May 12th, 2020
Three Regions to Begin Reopening on Friday, NYC Still Far Off
As of this morning, three regions in New York State have met all seven of the Governor's requirements to begin phased reopening. The Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier all plan to begin the process of reopening on Friday, when the PAUSE guidelines are set to expire. Two additional regions, Central New York and the North Country, are currently only lacking the testing capacity required, and are expected to meet that requirement soon.
In the city, however, reopening is not expected for some time. Mayor de Blasio said today that he does not believe New York City will be in a position to start reopening non-essential businesses before June. The city currently meets only four of the seven requirements to open; despite the decline in cases, the main hold-up is still the lack of available hospital and specifically ICU beds available.
Updated May 11th, 2020
NYPD to Limit Entry to Domino, Hudson River Park
In response to consistent overcrowding in parks on weekends, Mayor de Blasio announced Friday that the NYPD will limit the number of people in Williamsburg's Domino Park and Piers 45 and 46, which includes the Christopher St. Pier. Enforcement started over the weekend, and the Mayor is considering extending the limitations to more parks soon: "We're going to try it a few places where we've had particular problems. It's something we can apply to more and more places if it works."
The police presence will remain "all day" so that at any high point, they can ask people to leave and create space for other parkgoers.
Updated May 8th, 2020
Cuomo Announces Renters Can Pay with Security Deposits
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that New Yorkers will be able to pay their rent with the money they've already given their landlord as a security deposit. Tenants would have to pay the security deposit back over time, but the governor hopes that this move will offer much needed relief to New Yorkers who are currently out of work.
The governor also extended his moratorium on evictions until August 20th, and banned late fees for payments missed while the moratorium is in effect.
Rent Guidelines Board Votes for Rent Freeze
NYC's Rent Guidelines Board approved a rent freeze for one-year leases in rent stabilized apartments in a preliminary vote. Two year leases would receive a 1% rent increase in the second year. The preliminary vote followed pressure from tenant advocates and elected officials (including the Mayor) to institute a rent freeze. A proposal to reduce rent 2-3% put forth by tenant advocates and another to raise rent but halt increase collections until 2021 by landlord advocates were also up for a vote, but neither passed.
The final vote takes place June 17th, but based on previous years, tenants can expect the final guidelines to fall within the range approved in preliminary voting.
New Jersey Beaches Expected to Open for Memorial Day
As Jersey Shore towns begin to open up, Governor Phil Murphy stated he would be "shocked" if NJ's beaches didn't open by Memorial Day. Comparing them to the state's now open parks and golf courses, Murphy expects similar restrictions like a 50% capacity limitation and maintaining six feet between beachgoers.
Updated May 7th, 2020
Mayor Considers Limiting Entry to Parks
Mayor de Blasio announced in his daily briefing this morning that he is considering limiting access to New York's green spaces as the weather warms up and he anticipates overcrowding. He did not go into much detail but mentioned potential plans to "limit the number of people going in" to parks.
Antibody Testing Expands
Also in his daily briefing, Mayor de Blasio said "we are going to proceed energetically with antibody testing in this city ... Every time someone gets a test it's helping them to have information, and it's helping all of us to get information." There are now free testing centers in five locations with each location in a different borough. Locations include East New York, Upper Manhattan, Morrisania, The Bronx, Concord, Staten Island and Long Island City, Queens. The hotline to set up an appointment will be open beginning Friday and results should be available within 48 hours.
Two More Miles of NYC Streets Open Up
After opening up seven miles of streets on May 2nd, Mayor de Blasio has announced the second wave of open streets starting today. Residents can stretch their legs in different parts of the city including areas of Broadway in Manhattan, Willoughby St in Downtown Brooklyn and in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. You can see all open streets here.
Updated May 5th, 2020
Federal Judge Reinstates Democratic Primary
The New York State democratic presidential primary is officially back on, thanks to a ruling by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Analisa Torres. The ruling comes as a result of a suit filed by Andrew Yang, which alleged that cancelling the election set a dangerous precedent and deprived New Yorkers of a chance to make their voices heard, even if Joe Biden was the presumptive nominee. In her ruling, Torres stressed the importance of allowing state democrats to cast their vote, as they will affect the representation of the delegates at the party convention even if they do not have an impact on the candidate who will square off against Donald Trump in November. The state Board of Elections has stated that they stand by their previous decision, and may appeal Torres' ruling.
Whether or not the ruling is upheld, elections will still take place in New York on June 23rd in any district where other, local primaries were scheduled to be held.
Updated May 4th, 2020
Free Face Coverings Being Offered Across NYC
Mayor de Blasio announced Monday that "wherever you turn, you're going to be offered a face covering" over the next month. The city will be dispersing 7.5 million face coverings including 5 million three-ply medical masks and 2.5 million cloth face coverings. You can check this interactive map to find the closest hand-out spot near you.
Gov. Cuomo Reveals 4-Phase Plan to Reopen the State
In the Governor's daily briefing, Cuomo revealed more details about his plan to reopen the state. There will be several prerequisites for each region to begin reopening and which businesses will be allowed to open during each phase once the region meets all criteria. The requirements for reopening from the CDC are as follows:
- Regions must have at least 14 days of decline in total hospitalizations and deaths on a three-day rolling average.
- In regions with few COVID-19 cases, they cannot exceed 15 new total cases or 5 new deaths on a three-day rolling average.
- A region must have fewer than two new COVID-19 patients admitted per 100,000 residents per day.
- Regions must have at least 30 percent total hospital and ICU beds available.
- Hospitals must have at least 90 days of PPE stockpiled.
- 30 tests for every 1,000 residents per month. New York's National Guard made nearly 300,000 testing kits to collect samples. On Monday, 60,000 kits are being sent to labs and hospitals across the state.
- Regions must have a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, and additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in the region.
Once they meet these criteria, the businesses that can reopen in each phase will include:
Phase One: Construction, manufacturing and supply chain, select retail and curbside pickup.
Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, real estate and rental leasing.
Phase Three: Restaurants, food services and hotels.
Phase four: Arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
In addition, businesses must reimagine their operations to be safe and in compliance with new standards.So far, New York City only meets three of the seven requirements. You can see how other regions stand as of May 4th in this chart below.
Samaritan's Purse Leaving Central Park
Controversial, openly homophobic Evangelical Christian relief group Samaritan's Purse will be closing down its Central Park field hospital in the next two weeks that was set up to care for patients with COVID-19. The group set up on April 1st and treated 315 patients throughout the month amidst a firestorm of debate. With signs of new cases slowing down, the organization has decided to cease admissions. In a statement, the group said, "While this crisis is far from over, this marks a significant turning point in the coronavirus outbreak in New York that gives us assurance that we are returning towards normalcy."
Green-Wood Cemetery May be Forced to Close
The spacious cemetery offering residents a calm and beautiful place to pay respects to their loved ones has recently faced trouble with a small group of visitors. They planned to remain open during the pandemic but, due to rule-breakers bringing dogs, riding bikes and even climbing trees, the cemetery has issued a statement that they may be forced to close their gates if this behavior continues. After the cemetery's president Richard J. Moylan issued his statement that the cemetery may close, his call for social distance ambassadors was met with over 100 volunteers. With ample help, the cemetery may be able to keep its gates open but continues to monitor its grounds carefully.
Updated May 1st, 2020
NYS Schools Closed Through End of Academic Year
This morning, Cuomo announced in a tweet that k-12 and collegiate schools across New York State will indeed be closed for the rest of the academic year. The announcement comes as no surprise to most New Yorkers, as Mayor de Blasio has been pushing for closures for weeks, and confirms that distance learning will continue.
Connecticut Plans Next Phase of Reopening on May 20th
While New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have mainly walked the same line of policy to help flatten the curve, CT Governor Ned Lamont has differed from New York recently. With Governor Cuomo announcing PAUSE will extend at least until May 16th, Lamont has sights set on May 20th for phased reopenings. In a tweet from last night, the CT Governor states, "We're looking at May 20 for the next phase of reopening, targeting certain industries, some of which will need modifications to ensure safety measures are in place so we don't cause another spike." These industries include outdoor areas at restaurants and bars; outdoor museums and zoos; offices, retail outlets and boutique shops.
Updated April 30th, 2020
MTA Indefinitely Suspending Overnight Subway Service
MTA officials announced today that overnight subway service will be suspended beginning May 6th for the duration of the pandemic. While similar shutdowns have rarely taken place in recent memory, such as after the attacks on 9/11, the duration of this shutdown is expected to be unprecedented. The decision was made to give cleaning crews more time to sanitize the trains. Plus, it will aid in the Mayor's and Governor's joint effort to reduce the amount of homeless New Yorkers spending the night in subway stations and trains. Governor Cuomo stated there will be a "robust and sustainable" NYPD supervision to keep the homeless out of the stations.
For essential workers and those who need public transportation during overnight hours the MTA is launching a new Essential Connector service to provide transportation during this time. Follow @MTA on Twitter for more updates.
Updated April 29th, 2020
Cuomo Unveils 12-Step Plan To Reopen State
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo unveiled a detailed, 12-step plan to open the state of New York. The plan will allow different regions of the state to open independently, based on local data concerning the spread of the pandemic. Each region must meet several requirements to reopen, including a 14-day drop in hospitalization rates, a minimum of 30% capacity of hospital beds available for new patients, a contact tracing system, and isolation facilities for those unable to self-isolate. Businesses will be able to reopen based on the risk they pose to employees and customers and their essential nature, starting with manufacturing and construction. More information on the plan is available here.
Governor, Mayor Agree to Combat Homelessness on the Subway
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have come to a rare agreement when it comes to the MTA: both leaders say that homelessness has become a major problem on the subway and in stations. Potentially unsafe crowding in the shelter system, coupled with a decline in ridership, has led many homeless to seek shelter in stations. Mayor de Blasio proposed a plan to temporarily close ten stations overnight and send NYPD and homeless outreach workers in to get the homeless into shelters and clean the stations thoroughly. The MTA however, claims that closing the stations will do more harm than good, and prevent essential workers from getting to work for early shifts, or coming home from night shifts. Learn more here.
USNS Comfort Sets Sail Again
Tomorrow, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will depart from New York. The ship, which was called in to assist the city's overburdened healthcare system, will leave exactly one month after it arrived and return to its usual home in Norfolk, Virginia to await its next mission. There is currently no plan as to where the ship will be sent next, or whether it will be redeployed in order to combat the coronavirus again in the United States.
Updated April 28th, 2020
NYC Democratic Presidential Primary Cancelled
On Monday, Democratic officials made the decision to cancel the June 23rd Democratic presidential primary. New York is the first state to make this decision, which caused tension among supporters of Bernie Sanders who were hoping to use the presidential primary as a way to win more delegates for the former presidential candidate. However, the Board of Elections in New York considered the election to be "essentially a beauty contest," as the Vermont senator officially dropped out of the race last month. Primaries will still be held for other elected offices where relevant, but presidential candidates will not appear on the ballot.
NYC Opens Streets for Pedestrians & Cyclists
On Monday, Mayor De Blasio made a statement that he will close 40 miles of NYC streets to traffic in order to allow pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing while getting some fresh air. As the summer approaches, he hopes to expand this initiative to open 100 miles. In his statement, he said, "The City Council came forward with a vision for how we could open up more streets, do it over time, and do it in a way that’s responsive to the core concerns we've heard of the NYPD over safety and enforcement."
The way we will do it is we're going to focus first on streets in and around our parks. Very concerned about the streets on the outside of parks that oftentimes we're seeing that immediate area getting crowded. That's an obvious opportunity to open up more space...So the focus here will be to focus of course, same as we're doing so many things, on where the need is greatest,"
While explaining his plan further, he noted, "The first priority is the places hardest hit and then where it will have the most impact."
To learn more about the city's plan get the full story here.
Updated April 23rd, 2020
Hope for Struggling Restaurants
On Wednesday, the City Council offered a light of hope for the restaurant industry through a series of bills designed to ease the burden that the pandemic has put on our favorite eateries. While nothing has been approved yet, new legislation has been brought forward to pause evictions for both commercial and residential tenants until April 2021, remove fees for operating sidewalk seating, and guarantee sick leave for delivery workers. Bills were also brought forward to bring additional pay for grocery store workers, and to prohibit commercial landlords from harassing tenants for rent. More information about the proposed legislation is available here.
Updated April 20th, 2020
City Events Cancelled Through June
This morning, Mayor de Blasio announced that all city permits for non-essential events through June would be cancelled, including those for the Celebrate Israel and Puerto Rican Day Parades, and the Pride March scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on June 28. The mayor also announced that along with the permits, all concerts, sporting events and other public gatherings would be cancelled while the city continues to work hard to stem the spread of the virus.
Updated April 17th, 2020
PAUSE Extended to May 15th
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced that the state's PAUSE program will be extended again until May 15th. Schools and non-essential businesses will remain closed, and social distancing measures will continue to be enforced until then. The governor did however shed light on eventual plans to reopen the state, by slowly rolling back restrictions based on the essential nature and relative danger involved in opening individual industries.
Advocates Call for Rent Strike
May 1st may be a monumental day for city tenants and landlords. With millions of New Yorkers out of work and unable to pay their rent, the Upstate/Downstate Alliance and the Met Council on Housing are calling for a collective rent strike across the state. The coalition hopes to force the governor to cancel rent and allow tenants to resign their leases for the duration of the crisis. They believe that a "moment of collective noncompliance" will urge the state to bail out landlords, and take the burden off of struggling New Yorkers who have been laid off or furloughed in the wake of the virus.
The Met Council on housing can be reached at (212) 979-0611, and prospective strikers can text "Rent Strike" to 33339.
Updated April 16th, 2020
Face Masks Now Required
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo stated that he would issue an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear a face mask or some kind of face covering whenever they were out in public and not able to properly practice social distancing. That includes busy streets, stores and of course, public transportation. The order will go into effect on Friday at 8pm.
NYC Beaches May Not Open This Summer
The parks department has begun planning for a wide variety of possible scenarios when it comes to opening the beaches this summer, including late openings, select closures, and a full moratorium on sandy sunbathing. Mayor de Blasio warned that social distancing measures may remain in place into August, and the city has yet to begin the search for lifeguards and other personnel required to open the beaches. While a decision has not been made yet as to if or when the beaches will open, the health and safety of New Yorkers remains the most important factor.
Updated April 13th, 2020:
No concerts until fall 2021?
This weekend, The New York Times Magazine published an interview with Zeke Emanuel, a bioethicist, oncologist, and senior fellow at the Center For American Progress. Emanuel stated that "restarting the economy has to be done in stages," and that we could not expect to see concerts, sporting events and conferences to return until "fall 2021 at the earliest." An 18-month hiatus would be absolutely devastating to the live music industry, as well as our sanity. We can only hope that his estimate is far off base.
De Blasio calls for a rent freeze
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the Rent Guidelines Board to freeze rents for all one million rent regulated apartments in the city, preventing landlords from increasing the rent while New Yorkers struggle amidst the coronavirus fallout. He also asked the state to allow all New Yorkers to pay their rent with their security deposits.
De Blasio and Cuomo spar on school closures
On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all NYC schools would remain closed for in person instruction through the end of the school year. Governor Andrew Cuomo was quick to respond, stating that he had the ultimate authority on whether New York schools would reopen, and claiming that de Blasio's statement was merely his "opinion." Cuomo hopes to coordinate school re-openings with the rest of the state and the region, including New Jersey and Connecticut.
Updated April 7th, 2020:
Dog runs and basketball courts closed
Continuing a trend of recreational closures, all city dog parks and dog runs are now officially closed. The Parks Department has also removed basketball rims and nets from tennis courts, and locked all sports courts with gates. Parks and green spaces, as well as soccer fields will remain open for people (and dogs) to get some exercise, but they will be closely monitored in order to ensure visitors are maintaining proper distance.
Fines double for those not following distancing rules
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced an increase in the maximum fine for violating social distancing guidelines from $500 to $1,000. The Governor said that too many New Yorkers were not taking the rules seriously, and that, “you don’t have the right, frankly, to take health-care staff and people who are literally putting their lives on the line and be cavalier or reckless with them."
"Safe Streets' program suspended
The mayor's office officially suspended the Safe Streets program that launched last weekend. The program was designed to give pedestrians room to walk outside while maintaining distance from one another by closing four streets across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. A spokeswoman for the mayor stated that the program was underutilized, and not enough people were using the open streets to justify the amount of police presence needed to close the streets.
Updated April 3rd, 2020:
All city playgrounds closed
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo ordered all city playgrounds to close. The decision was met with support from City Hall, with mayoral spokeswoman Jane Meyer stating, “As the weather warms up, we must act early to limit any possibility of crowding.” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams previously stated that additional closures would be necessary to combat the spread of the virus, including shuttering all city parks and closing additional streets to traffic to allow New Yorkers room to walk while maintaining the minimum of six feet of distance.
City offers free meals for all
Starting today, all New Yorkers will be able to get three meals a day for free. Those in need will be able to pick up breakfast, lunch and dinner at any of 435 sites across the five boroughs, and no one will be turned away.
For more information about the program and to find a pickup location near you, simply text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877.
President recommends everyone wear face masks
On Thursday, President Trump said that his administration would soon release a recommendation that all Americans wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. While medical grade masks should be reserved for hospital personnel treating patients, homemade masks and simple coverings as basic as a bandana or a scarf may offer some degree of protection. Experts say they were hesitant to make such a recommendation out of fear that it could create a false sense of security.
Small business loans applications officially live, unofficially stalled
Today, applications for Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPPL) officially became available, but were met with confusion and delays at many banks. The loans are part of the federal government's massive CARES act, and are designed to help small businesses cover their payroll and operating costs. While some banks including Bank of America and Ameris are currently accepting applications, many others such as JP Morgan Chase have been delayed due to last minute changes in loan structures and difficulties with logistics to ensure same day approvals. More information is available here.
Updated March 31, 2020:
The spread of COVID-19 hospitalizations is slowing
We finally have some good news to indicate that social distancing measures are working in New York. As of Monday, the rate of new hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients is doubling every six days, down from every two days earlier this month. While we have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak, it is positive news. Keep staying home, New York.
The USNS Comfort arrives in New York
The Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort has arrived in New York. The ship, currently docked at Pier 90 on the West Side of Manhattan, holds approximately 1,000 beds and a staff of 1,200 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. The ship will be used to provide care for patients not currently diagnosed with COVID-19, alleviating much needed space in over-burdened hospitals, and allowing them to expand their intensive care units and devote more resources to helping those suffering from the virus.
Cannabis legalization could be on hold
Efforts to legalize adult use of cannabis in New York could be stalled due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. This year, legalization efforts have been directed through the state's budget by devoting $34.3 million in funding to a newly created Office for Cannabis Management. However, initial reports indicate that the new budget has eliminated this funding in order to prioritize measures to stop the spread of the virus and provide care for those affected. Legalization is still possible through the state legislature, but those discussions have understandably been tabled until the current crisis has been resolved.
Updated March 30, 2020:
Governor Cuomo extends PAUSE directive
Last night, Governor Cuomo announced an extension of the state's PAUSE directive for two weeks, until April 15th. The directive bans all non-essential gatherings, and requires all non-essential employees to work from home.
City considers fines to enforce social-distancing
Over the weekend, Mayor de Blasio stated that city officials will begin implementing implementing a $250-$500 fine for New Yorkers who ignore social-distancing guidelines. The fines will specifically target those who gather in large groups in parks and other public spaces as the weather improves, and houses of worship that continue to hold services and gatherings. The city will also remove basketball hoops and soccer goals from city parks if it finds that people continue to use them.
Central Park becomes a field hospital
Construction began yesterday morning on a field hospital in Central Park. The 14 tent facility located in the East Meadow across the street from Mt. Sinai will hold up to 68 patients, including 10 intensive care units equipped with much needed ventilators. Teams of volunteers are currently assisting employees of Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization which provided equipment and doctors to run the field hospital. They hope to be fully up and running by Tuesday morning.
Updated March 27, 2020:
The Governors Ball Cancelled
This one really hurts. Yesterday, the Governors Ball officially announced that the festival will not take place in 2020 due to concerns for the safety and well-being of artists and fans amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Ticket buyers will be able to obtain a refund for their tickets or transfer them to 2021, as the festival organizers are already working on next year's event. More information is available here.
City announces street closures to prevent crowding
In an effort to prevent crowding and ensure New Yorkers follow proper social distancing protocol, Mayor de Blasio announced a series of street closures yesterday. Starting today, sections of major streets in four boroughs will be closed to vehicular traffic as part of a pilot program to allow pedestrians room to walk and get exercise. Parks and playgrounds will also remain open this weekend, despite crowding blasted by the Governor last weekend. A list of street closures and more information is available here.
Updated March 26, 2020:
Citi Bike Critical Workforce Membership Program provides free bikes for essential workers
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio, the Department of Transportation and Lyft (who manage the Citi Bike program in New York) announced an initiative to provide free 30-day memberships for essential workers, including hospital personnel, transit employees and first responders. There will be no cost to hospitals or transit agencies, or the city departments (FDNY, NYPD, EMS, etc.), and the memberships will not auto-renew or charge workers who access the program. Lyft has also committed to an enhanced cleaning regiment and other programs to make bikes more available around high traffic hospitals.
Senate bill provides increased unemployment benefits
Late last night, the Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion aid package to provide relief for those affected by the coronavirus' economic impact. On top of sending checks to almost all Americans and other measures intended to help struggling businesses and prevent an economic downturn, the bill also includes unprecedented expansions to unemployment benefits. These include $600 a week in federal funds on top of the already existing state funds, which have a current max of $504 per week. The bill also seeks to extend coverage to people who are self employed, contractors, and gig economy workers who were previously not eligible for benefits. The bill is now moving to the House, who are expected to pass the legislation in a vote on Friday.
You can learn more about stimulus FAQs for individuals here, and small businesses here.
Update March 23, 2020:
DOE opens "Regional Enrichment Centers" for kids of essential workers, and remote learning begins.
Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced the closing of all schools until at April 20 at the earliest and teaching goes online today. For children whose parents are still working in essential businesses and operations, the DOE has opened "Regional Enrichment Centers" for the children to attend during the day. The program will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, offering three hot meals, activities, remote learning and emotional support.
Update March 22, 2020:
New York State officially on PAUSE.
As of 8 p.m. tonight, New York State is officially required by the Governor to stay indoors except for specified situations that have been deemed necessary by the Governor. The order is in effect until April 19 at the earliest. Essential businesses have been specified in a new list created by Governor Cuomo and include, health care operations, airports & transportation infrastructure, pharmacies, grocery stores and more. View the full list here.
Update March 20, 2020:
New York State implements 90-day moratorium on evictions.
In a tweet made today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, "New York will implement a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants. We will do all we can to help those financially suffering because of the #COVID19 pandemic."
This came seven days after a coalition of New York City landlords had pledged to halt evictions for the next three months. Cuomo's announcement makes this official for all landlords pertaining to residential and commercial tenants.
New York State on PAUSE.
On Friday, Governor Cuomo announced the PAUSE initiative in New York's next measure to curb the spread of coronavirus. PAUSE, which stands for "Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone" means the governor is asking 100% of non-essential workers to stay at home and any businesses deemed "non-essential" to close for the time being. Cuomo stressed, "These are legal provisions, they will be enforced, there will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that's not in compliance."
An executive order made earlier this week declared healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters, transit workers, grocery workers, restaurant workers producing food for delivery and take out, delivery workers, child care workers, utility workers, auto repair workers, and hardware store employees to all be essential. If you're not sure if your business is included, you can see the full list here.
Update March 18, 2020:
De Blasio and Cuomo to discuss the Shelter-In-Place Order today.
The mayor and governor have been debating whether asking New Yorkers to stay inside except for food, medicine and necessary supplies will work for New York. While de Blasio says he's "almost there" in terms of making the decision, Cuomo has said “There's not going to be any quarantine where we contain people within an area ... There's not going to be any 'you-must-stay-in-your-house' rule."
Schools continue to offer grab-and-go meals for students in need.
Grab & Go breakfast and lunch was available to students at the entrance of every DOE school from 7:30 - 1:30 today. On Monday, school chancellor Richard Carranza said:
We expect that over the course of the week, as those plans become a little more final, that we're going to have more and more students that are going to show up. And what I'm really excited about is that we have lots of different options for students ... I'm holding a vegan option, for example, with hummus and apples. So we're trying to meet the needs of students, as much as possible. As we get further into this hiatus, there's going to be more options, including hot options.
Update March 17, 2020:
Mayor de Blasio considers a Shelter-In-Place Order.
Mayor de Blasio says the decision "should be made in the next 48 hours" on whether or not people will be urged to stay indoors completely. The mayor also said "If that moment came, there are tremendously substantial challenges that would have to be met ... And I don't take this lightly at all."
He continued, "What is going to happen with folks who have no money?” he continued. “How are they going to get food? How are they going to get medicines? How are we going to ensure in a dynamic like that, that supplies are sufficient for our population?"
New clarification explains how bars and restaurants will be able to seel to-go alcohol.
With the new policies in place from Governor Cuomo the State Liquor Authority (SLA) has made a list of rules in accordance with the new mandates. The SLA has released guidance page including the following points in regards to off-premises sales:
- Alcoholic beverage sold for off-premises consumption pursuant to this guidance may be sold in any closed and any sealed original container of any size. Provided that:
- The sale of each container shall be accompanied by the purchase of food
- Sales should be consistent with municipal open container ordinances
- Alcoholic beverages sold for off-premises consumption pursuant to this guidance may be sold for takeout from the licensed premises or may be delivered to the customer’s residence.
- Deliveries shall be made in a vehicle permitted by the Authority (e.g., a third-party delivery service), or a vehicle-owned and -operated, or hired and operated by the licensee or its employee. A copy of the permit or license must be present in the vehicle.
- Alcoholic beverages sold for off-premises consumption pursuant to this guidance may only be sold during the on-premises hours of operation of the county in which the premises is located or, if different, the hours of operation set forth in the licensee’s method of operation with the Authority.
Update March 16, 2020:
The High Line has decided to temporarily close.
A statement from the park:
This was a difficult decision. However, given new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about limiting gatherings of 50 or more people, the closure of NYC public schools, and the mayor's limitations on restaurants and bars, we cannot ensure the safety of visitors, volunteers, or staff. This decision was informed by recommendations from public officials, the CDC, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on social distancing as a means to contain community spread of COVID-19. While we fundamentally believe in the power of parks, especially during challenging times, we have to think about public health and safety. As an elevated park, the High Line’s design includes staircases and narrow paths. These unique conditions make it hard for us to meet the social distancing requirements of keeping at least six feet between people.
U.S. coronavirus task force advises against gatherings of 10 people or more.
The federal government began recommended that no gathering of 10 people or more take place around the country on Monday afternoon. For now, the new recommended guidelines are in place for 15 days.
From The New York Times:
The Trump administration released new guidelines on Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10 people, discretionary travel, bars, restaurants and food courts.
Bars and restaurants will be allowed to sell to-go alcoholic beverages.
After announcing that bars and restaurants will be required to keep their doors closed and move to take-out only services, Governor Cuomo clarified that these establishments will still be able to sell alcohol. During a press conference, the governor stated, "Whatever you could order [in] the bar or restaurant or distillery or winery you can purchase through takeout ... We hope that goes a long way toward alleviating any economic hardship." To accommodate the governor's new rule, the State Liquor Authority has temporarily changed its law allowing for these businesses to provide such takeout services.
Tri-State officials ban gatherings of 50 people or more.
Beginning Monday at 8 p.m. no gatherings of 50 people or more will be allowed in Connecticut, New York or New Jersey. Restaurants and bars are required to offer take-out only. In a tweet on Monday, Governor Cuomo posted:
#BREAKING: NY, CT and NJ are taking joint regional action to reduce the spread of #COVID19:
Effective 8PM TONIGHT:
-Crowd capacity reduced to 50
-Restaurants/bars will be takeout/delivery ONLY
-Movie theaters closed
Update: March 15, 2020:
All entertainment venues to close on March 17.
Later in the day on March 15, after announcing the school closures, de Blasio made the decision to close all entertainment venues like night clubs and movie theatres beginning March 17. He stated: "Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery. Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close ... The order will go into effect Tuesday, March 17 at 9:00 AM."
De Blasio delivered a more in-depth explanation for the decision, stating:
"Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago. We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step. The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.. This is not a decision I make lightly. These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality. We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers."
Mayor De Blasio orders all NYC Schools to close until April 20 at the earliest.
De Blasio stated, "There are so many parents who depend on our schools for meals and for their children ... I am distraught at having to take this action, but I became convinced over the course of the day there was no other choice."
This will effect 1.1 million students enrolled in the public health system. The city will institute remote learning on March 23 along with "regional enrichment centers" providing childcare for those in need. Schools will also be providing grab-and-go meals until April 8th.
Update: March 12, 2020:
New York has banned gatherings of 500 people or more "for the foreseeable future". Here is what we've heard from officials and news sources.
Governor Cuomo stated via Twitter:
We are taking new actions to reduce the density of people across the state. Starting Friday at 5pm, gatherings with 500 people or more will not be permitted in NYS. Additionally, for facilities with an occupancy of 500 or fewer, we are reducing the legal capacity by 50%.
For Broadway theaters in Manhattan, these rules will go into effect at 5pm TODAY. We have already spoken to the theaters about these new measures and they agreed.
All Broadway theaters will suspend their performances through April 12, according to a statement from the Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners. - The New York Times
Charlotte St. Martin, President of Broadway League says:
Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals ... Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.
Gothamist also noted that St. Martin suggested ticketholders should "contact their point of purchase for refunds and exchanges."
The New York Post has said, "several shows will not be able to recover. The Minutes, a new play by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts that was to open Sunday night, is likely to close and never return."
Music venues and Broadway aren't the only ones being affected.
"Starting Friday, all events and public programming at New York City public libraries have been canceled. For now, library branches remain open, a spokeswoman said." - New York Times
New Jersey is also taking precautions.
Governor Murphy recommended that all public gatherings of more than 250 people be cancelled as well. In a quote from the New Jersey Governor, he said, "Our front line efforts right now must be to aggressively mitigate the potential for exposure and further spread.”
Likewise, Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City has set a curfew of 10pm for nightclubs and bars.
Mayor de Blasio confirmed he agreed with Governor Cuomo's decision.
The NY Post reports that "de Blasio said he agreed with Gov. Cuomo's decision to close all places with legal occupancy of 500 people or more, and to slash the occupancy of smaller places in half."
An aid to de Blasio stated "I can assure you, none of us wanted to take this action ... But it is the point where it's necessary."
Venues and promoters have been responding with statements of their own as well.
Brooklyn Bowl tweeted:
| NOTICE! | In accordance with Gov. Cuomo’s action to temporarily ban mass gatherings of 500+ people, we will be closing our doors until further notice. Your safety is our top priority + we feel this is the right thing to do. More info: https://bkbwl.co/2QbBEUX
LPR issued a profound statement that clearly speaks to the issue venues are facing:
To Our Patrons and Our Community,
A lot has changed in the three days since we last wrote to you. We are doing our best to keep music lovers and our community safe while also allowing our staff the opportunity to put food on the table for their families.
It is a balancing act we wish we didn’t have to be a part of.
In light of Governor Cuomo’s ban on large public gatherings, we have decided to cancel this weekend’s events. We will update you shortly on the month’s remaining events. Tonight’s show will go on as planned, but will be capped at 500 people.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has hit independent businesses hard. Our bartenders and waitstaff, our porters and bussers, our marketers and bookers...we all depend on live music to survive. If you purchased a ticket to a show that ends up being postponed, please consider hanging onto your ticket to attend the rescheduled event. Your support means everything to us and holding onto those tickets during this time of uncertainty means that much more.
We will reach out to you again soon with more information regarding the coming weeks. Until then, stay safe, keep your spirits high and if you’re going to be home for a bit, play your music loud.
Avant Gardner also shared a response:
As a venue and as members of a greater community, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. All events at Avant Gardner in the month of March are postponed and our team is actively working with agents, managers, artists, and clients to reschedule the affected shows. We will continue to monitor the situation and hope to resume operations in April if the Government and Health Officials deem it safe to do so.
The logistics of rescheduling these shows will take some time to resolve. We request your patience as we review each event in the coming weeks, and we will provide updates via email and social media as quickly as possible. Your ticket(s) will be honored for the new date(s). In the case that an event becomes impossible to reschedule, we will reach out to those ticket holders directly with more information.
We want to express gratitude to our guests, artists, employees, clients, partners, and friends for their support. Your safety and well-being is always our top priority. We will all navigate through these challenging times together.
For further inquiries please contact [email protected]
Elsewhere also posted:
Our mission at Elsewhere as always is to create a safer space to enjoy music, art, and freedom of expression, and so ensuring the safety of our community, our artists, and our staff remains our top priority in the face of COVID-19.
In an abundance of caution, we will be temporarily closing Elsewhere for one week, through next Thursday, March 19th. Tomorrow's live shows will be our last events, and this weekend's club nights will be postponed.
We are closely monitoring and actively implementing recommendations and mandates by authorities, and the NYC Department of Health. When we re-open next week, that will entail decreasing our venue's capacity so that we do not host events with 500+ people.
We are doing our best to adapt to a quickly evolving situation, and so there is likely to be more event updates soon. For now, you can find all current programming updates in our story highlight. Tickets will be refunded automatically for cancelled events.
For full details on our community health precautions, please visit http://bit.ly/elsewherehealth. Let's work together to keep each other safe.
The Elsewhere Team.
Baby's All Right Stated:
Due to special precautions Baby's All Right will be postponing all programming until March 26th. This is a public safety issue that we would like to responsibly do our part in containing. All events will be rescheduled and ticket holders will be notified of those updates as they are confirmed. Please bear with us through this tough time. There is a lot to work through but we promise ticket holders will be notified with updates as they roll in.
Please stay safe and take preventative measures to quell the spread of COVID-19. Thank you and remember: Baby loves you.
The McKittrick Hotel stated:
Per Governor Cuomo’s order closing all Broadway theaters and public gatherings with a capacity of 500 or more effective yesterday, The McKittrick Hotel follows for the safety of our casts, staff and patrons.
The McKittrick Hotel - which houses Sleep No More, Speakeasy Magick, Bartschland Follies, The Woman in Black, and rooftop restaurant & bar, The Lodge at Gallow Green - will close for a period of 30 days through April 12, 2020.
We are working to update our schedule and rebook reservations during this time at no extra charge. Once our schedule is posted, we will be happy to assist guests to find a suitable exchange date. Reservations will not expire and can be used at any time.
I will be in touch when we have more news. Our rooftop garden escape, Gallow Green, is still anticipated to re-open in spring!
Recognizing national concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, Live Nation is instructing its touring shows to prepare to return home, Billboard has learned. The announcement affects all Live Nation tours, domestically and internationally.
Earlier Thursday (March 12) the company told employees it is hitting the pause button on current touring arena shows through the end of the month. A few shows will play out Thursday and Friday, but the remainder of the shows starting this weekend will be postponed.
Live Nation is also instructing its employees to work remotely and not come into the office. The company’s Beverly Hills headquarters will be mostly closed until the end of March.
Before the ban hit, the Metropolitan Museum also took preventative measures.
The museum is closing its facilities at the Fifth Ave flagship location, as well as the Met Breuer and Met Cloisters. All events have been cancelled at The Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall until March 31 as well according to New York Times.
Daniel Weiss, the president and chief executive at The Met said, "The Met's priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers and visitors."
We will continue to update you as best we can as the situation develops and keeping our listings as relevant and accurate as we can.