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Need for food aid grows — Cuomo and de Blasio blame ignorance for lockdown delays — Arrests down sharply in every county


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Need for food aid grows — Cuomo and de Blasio blame ignorance for lockdown delays — Arrests down sharply in every county

Memorial Day weekend beckons, and here’s a partial list of things you can’t do: See your friends, swim at a city beach, go to a bar, barbecue in a park, ride the subway anywhere non-essential or take in a parade. State beaches reopen Friday, at 50 percent capacity, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning that…

Need for food aid grows — Cuomo and de Blasio blame ignorance for lockdown delays — Arrests down sharply in every county

Memorial Day weekend beckons, and here’s a partial list of things you can’t do: See your friends, swim at a city beach, go to a bar, barbecue in a park, ride the subway anywhere non-essential or take in a parade.

State beaches reopen Friday, at 50 percent capacity, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning that they might be full by 10 o’clock in the morning. The message from both him and Mayor Bill de Blasio for city dwellers amounts to: Don’t bother. “You don’t want to take that ride and get all the way out there and find out the beach is already closed,” Cuomo said Thursday. De Blasio is not opening city beaches, and his weekend advice is to “stay as local as you can. Keep it as simple as you can. Stay indoors as much as you can.” The MTA added a plea not to take the train or bus to the beach this weekend, with transit ridership beginning to creep to levels that make safe social distancing impossible.

Summer school is off for the season statewide, Cuomo announced Thursday. Summer camp is looking less likely, though no final decision has been made, with worries growing about a dangerous inflammatory syndrome in children linked to the coronavirus.

Here’s what you CAN do:

  • Bump your mood and immune system with some vitamin D — responsibly, if you’re leaving home, or just open a window. Trust us.
  • Drink a lot of water and a medium amount of whatever this year’s controversial day-drinking cocktail has turned out to be, perhaps procured to-go from your local bar.
  • Take a moment during the current crisis to remember men and women who sacrificed their lives during previous and current conflicts the country has withstood.

IT’S FRIDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S ANDREW? No available public schedule by press time.

WHERE’S BILL? Holding a media availability and appearing on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Due to Memorial Day weekend, POLITICO New York Playbook will not publish on Monday, May 25. It will return Tuesday, May 26. Please continue to follow us here.

ABOVE THE FOLD: GOV. ANDREW CUOMO and Mayor Bill de Blasio deflected blame Thursday in the wake of a bombshell study confirming that New York’s elected leaders stalled when it was time to take action on battling the spread of the coronavirus. An analysis by Columbia University released Wednesday night concluded that if New York acted even one week earlier in ordering people to stay home and mandating social distancing, it would have spared more than 17,000 lives in the New York metro area. The study…revealed what many New Yorkers have come to believe over the past two months: Cuomo and de Blasio, two Democrats who have been unable to even present the same death count amid long-standing bickering, dragged their feet during the most dire crisis either has faced in their careers and as a result, thousands of New Yorkers died. But both leaders on Thursday insisted they didn’t know the extent or source of the spread, expressing regret for their ignorance but not the timing of their decisions. POLITICO’s Anna Gronewold, Sally Goldenberg and Erin Durkin

“IN THE EARLY weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, Sarah Salas was one of thousands of New Yorkers who lost her job, as a babysitter and housecleaner. On February 20, her employer told her to stop coming in for work because he was afraid he had coronavirus. Not long after, she herself was diagnosed with the dreaded condition. And that was only the start of her problems. Over the following weeks, her attempts to get food stamps and cash assistance were stymied time and again as the city’s online portal failed to process her application and calls to 311 and a hotline run by the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) went nowhere, she said. ‘I feel like I’m in the air,’ Salas told the Daily News on Thursday. ‘I’m here struggling. I don’t know where else to go. I’ve tried everything. I have two kids at home and no work, no money.’ She is one of an unknown number of New Yorkers who have been unable to get benefits as HRA faces an overwhelming surge during the economic devastation. The city received a whopping 84,171 applications for food stamps last month, more than double the number in April 2019, when there were 27,416 such applications, according to HRA. There were 34,213 applications for cash assistance last month, up 33% from April 2019, HRA said.” New York Daily News’ Shant Shahrigian

THE CITY HAS given out 32 million free meals to residents in need as the coronavirus pandemic leaves more New Yorkers struggling to feed their families, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. By next week, the city will further boost its food distribution efforts and expects to be giving out 1.5 million meals every day. That includes a million delivered to people’s homes and another 500,000 given out at shuttered school buildings. The number of New Yorkers who don’t have enough food has doubled during the current crisis, reaching 2 million people as business shutdowns cost hundreds of thousands of people their jobs. Older adults, who have been advised to isolate themselves as completely as possible, have also struggled to access food without putting their health in jeopardy. “Think about the working people, hard working people, middle class people, people who were doing everything right, and suddenly their job wasn’t there anymore. And they don’t have that paycheck, and they don’t have enough money to feed their families,” de Blasio said Thursday. “We’re not going to let our people go hungry,” he said. “You should never feel that you have to suffer. If you don’t have enough food, we are here for you.” POLITICO’s Erin Durkin

“WHILE NEW YORK CITY’s stay at home order remains in place, the MTA says that riders have begun returning to the subways and buses. Bus ridership has nearly doubled from a recent low of 400,000 riders a day, to 700,000 now, according to the MTA. Most growth has been in the outer boroughs. Subway ridership (which plummeted down from 5 million riders a day) hasn’t increased as much, but has ticked up from 400,000 at a recent low to 600,000 now. The increases come as the MTA continues to shut down the subway system overnight for cleaning and disinfecting, but has not rolled out any new crowd control measures. Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of the New York City Transit Authority, who oversees bus and subway service, said at the monthly MTA board meeting that these relatively modest increases in ridership make proper social distancing on public transit all but impossible.” WNYC’S Stephen Nessen

The MTA cancelled as many as 41 percent of scheduled trains in one day because of workers calling in sick.

Staten Island ferry service will run every half hour during rush hour, after being cut to once an hour due to pandemic ridership drops.

“THIS SUMMER was supposed to be big for Coney Island. Memorial Day weekend would mark the 100th anniversary of the Wonder Wheel, Coney Island’s 15-story feat of engineering in the form of a Ferris wheel, with swinging cars and panoramic views of both city and ocean. A three-day centennial celebration was planned, including a performance by the Broadway cast of ‘Wicked.’ The festivities have been postponed … Whenever New York City begins to reopen, Coney Island’s greatest strength might also be its biggest vulnerability. ‘Now we have this fear of each other’s bodies, and touching, and sweat,’ said Dianna Carlin, the owner of Lola Star Boardwalk Boutique. ‘Coney Island is the melting pot of humanity, but are people going to want that?’ … Even in the best-case scenario, if beaches and nonessential businesses are eventually allowed to reopen under certain guidelines, it’s hard to imagine “the People’s Playground” making any kind of profit this summer without the wild abandon of summer crowds and long lines. It’s the definition of a seasonal business.” New York Times’ Lauren Vespoli

— FROM NYT: “Beach Towns Have a Message for New York City Residents: Go Away,” by Corey Kilgannon. “Annoyed by the city’s decision to keep its shoreline closed, officials in nearby areas are limiting beach access to keep outsiders at bay.”

“A NEARLY $21 million field hospital green-lit by the de Blasio administration when coronavirus threatened to overrun local hospitals has opened and shuttered without treating a single patient, officials confirmed to THE CITY. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans on March 31 to transform the temporarily idle Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook into a 670-bed makeshift medical site. That same day, he launched a smaller transformation of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing into a 350-bed overflow facility — at a time when more than 8,400 patients were being treated in local hospitals for presumed or confirmed covid-19 … The lower-profile Red Hook terminal hospital was slated to open in mid-April but wasn’t ready for service until May 4. By then, citywide hospital utilization had already fallen by half its April 12 highpoint, to about 6,000 patients. City officials say the $20.8 million site, constructed by Texas-based contractor SLSCO under a no-bid emergency contract, is now being demobilized after seeing no medical activity. They expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pick up the costs for both of the temporary hospitals — which include an additional $2 million paid out to a second firm for construction management.” The City’s Yoav Gonen

Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced legislation to allow restaurants and bars to continue serving alcohol to go for two years after the state of emergency ends.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer testified that state cuts will likely cost the city $3 billion, pushing the deficit to at least $11 billion.

— De Blasio said the city will break up religious gatherings that exceed ten people, sounding a cautionary note after an order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowing the resumption of small gatherings for worship.

— The number of NYPD officers out sick is back under 3 percent.

“VETERAN Bronx Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo has been booted from the ballot after an upstart progressive challenger accused her campaign of petition fraud. The New York Court of Appeals decided Thursday to overturn a ruling that would have allowed Arroyo to remain on the ballot for the Democrat primary on June 23 because ‘the lower courts should have concluded that this is one of those rare instances in which the designating petition is so “permeated” by fraud “as a whole as to call for its invalidation.”’ Amanda Septimo, a 29-year-old labor organizer backed by the Working Families Party, charged Arroyo’s campaign committed fraud after discovering signatures collected by the incumbent to get on the ballot in the upcoming Democratic primary were illegally backdated. In a 4-3 decision, the panel concluded that ‘in the circumstances of this case the designating petition should be declared invalid.’ Arroyo, 84, was elected to the Assembly in 1994, becoming the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the chamber. The longtime lawmaker did not return a call for comment.” Daily News’ Denis Slattery

— The high court also removed Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, who was previously removed from the ballot for paperwork errors but reinstated by lower court decisions.

“THE ADMINISTRATION of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to force health insurance companies to pay for nursing homes to administer twice-weekly tests to all employees, according to memos his state agencies have sent to health facility operators. The mandated statewide tests, coming after the high number of Covid-related deaths at state-regulated nursing homes across the state, are estimated to cost more than $40 million per week.

‘Providers cannot afford to bear the costs associated with this mandate,’ said Stephen Hanse, chief executive officer of the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents more than 400 nursing home and assisted living communities serving 65,000 New Yorkers. The nursing home trade group says it supports Cuomo’s testing mandate but that it is unable to fund the tests. They said the tests would cost $200 per week for every worker in a state in an industry that has more than 205,000 employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The issue is far from settled, however. Health insurance and some union-funded health plans do not believe they should be on the hook for the costs associated with surveillance Covid testing of workers who do not have any symptoms of the virus. They, instead, are urging the Cuomo administration to tap a federal pot of funding they say is already available to the state.” Buffalo News’ Tom Precious

“BINGHAMTON University and Syracuse University announced Wednesday they would open in late August, but the state says in-person restrictions placed statewide apply to the schools and announcing an opening date is premature.The reopening plans by some New York colleges have created a patchwork of uncertainty over how higher education will proceed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic … While Binghamton announced its own schedule, there has been no direction publicly from the State University of New York administration on when it might have a plan for its 64-campus system. Asked Wednesday if Binghamton’s announcement was reflective of the SUNY’s plans, the system referred comment to Cuomo’s office, which said any specific reopening date would be premature. ‘Colleges and universities will be subject to the NY Forward reopening plans,’ Cuomo’s office said in a statement, referring to the four-phase plan in each region of the state based on the virus’ decline. ‘Until then, the in-person restrictions placed statewide in NY on Pause still apply to these schools.’” USA Today Network’s Ashley Biviano, Joseph Spector and Daniel Axelrod

“ARRESTS were down by double digits in every county of New York during March and the first half of April – by more than two-thirds in some areas – while the covid-19 pandemic escalated and met its projected peak in the state. Statewide, the number of arrests dropped by 48% in that time period compared to last year, according to data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. And the reason seems obvious: Most people were staying home, so there were fewer opportunities for crime to happen. With bars closed, fewer people were likely to drive under the influence. Burglary is less common when no one leaves the house. Members of law enforcement said in a series of interviews that self-isolation was the biggest driver of the drop in crime, but not the only reason arrests were down this year. It’s a combination of things, said Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose county saw a third of the arrests this year during March and the first half of April as it did last year. Only 319 arrests were made during that time this year, down from 950 in 2019.” Dan Clark for City & State

LISTEN: To Maria DeCotis, a New York City based comedian and actor who has been lip-syncing Cuomo’s monologues about his personal life, chat with The Capitol Pressroom’s David Lombardo about her new political audience.

#UpstateAmerica: Video Korner II in Greenwich — where you can still rent more than 10,000 titles on VHS and DVD — is closing. Its long-time owner doesn’t have a favorite movie because “I don’t have a chance to watch many.”

— Emergency room visits for non-Covid cases are starting to creep back up at some NYC hospitals.

— “While millions are out of work in New York, the Cuomo administration is paying people from out-of-state low wages to process their unemployment claims, the Post has learned.”

— “Violence interrupters” from anti-gang and gun violence groups have walked into the city’s landscape of social distancing enforcement following criticism against the police, which has included backlash over racial disparities in arrests.

— Yankee Stadium’s largest parking lot will host a series of drive-in events this summer, from movie screenings to stand-up comedy.

— COLUMN: Wealthy New Yorkers who’ve fled the city want pools in their second or new homes, contractors and real estate agents say.

— De Blasio’s 2017 re-election campaign was hit with $16,000 in fines for campaign finance violations.

— New York is deferring sales tax remittances without penalty or interest to June 22.

— Two brothers selling what they claim is the original Coney Island hotdog say the hotdog business is booming — and they’re not alone.

vape store owners are grappling with the ban on flavored vape products, which has dealt them sizable financial blows amid the closure of non-essential businesses.

— Orange County officials want the U.S. Space Force to make New York Stewart International Airport its headquarters.

— An off-duty NYPD officer was charged with murder in the shooting death of his friend on Long Island.

— At least 30 fentanyl-related overdoses, including two deaths, have been reported between Albany, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties since Wednesday morning.

— A Long Island man on a Zoom call was fatally stabbed by his son, interrupting a session of about 20 people.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jay Carney is 55 … Noah FeldmanBernard Shaw is 8-0 … Richard Keil, managing director of global issues and crisis management at Accenture (hat tips: Tim Burger and Randy Whitestone) … Joe PompeoBryan Petrich, comms manager at the Managed Funds Association … Yahoo News’ Jon Ward is 43 … Connie Bruck Stephanie Anderson … McClatchy’s Michael Wilner is 31 … Kevin DavittClare Krusing Osha Gray DavidsonJames Crabtree Paige GanceIrwin Stelzer is 88 … Stephanie Anderson J. Michael SchellSandy CardinDavid H. Hoffman (h/ts Jewish Insider) … (was Thursday): Rick Reichmuth, Fox News meteorologist — Playbook Q&A

“IN BROOKLYN, a nightclub has been closed for two months. In Manhattan, a travel agency says it is unlikely to ever reopen. Both have not paid rent since the coronavirus shutdowns began. As a result, their landlord, Jane Lok, collected roughly 50 percent of her monthly rent from her six commercial tenants in April and May, a drastic drop-off from normal times. She owes a $20,000 insurance premium this month and a much higher annual property tax bill in July, both of which have caused her to lose sleep over how she will pay. ‘I’m just running my numbers and seeing when I will run out of money,’ Ms. Lok said. ‘We are already dipping into savings.’ Across New York City, commercial tenants are falling behind in rent at unprecedented rates as the coronavirus outbreak has caused a nearly complete lockdown of the city for two months. Residential rent collections have also declined as tenants who lost jobs have stopped paying. But the erosion of commercial rents, so far, is worse and has stripped landlords of their largest source of income every month.” New York Times’ Matthew Haag

“THE SPREAD OF coronavirus through New York City and the ensuing lockdown measures have shaken the city rental market in a way that has not been seen since the Great Recession, with New Yorkers fleeing the five boroughs to avoid the virus or save money after losing their jobs. Leasing and new rental inventory hit record lows in late March and April after Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed stay-at-home measures on New York State, which prohibited real estate brokers from showing apartments in person. Listing website and data aggregator StreetEasy released data Tuesday showing that new rental inventory has risen from 1,750 listings during the last week of March to nearly 5,000 listings the week ending May 10.” Commercial Observer’s Rebecca Barid-Remba

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