Let Our People Work

A closed store in a COVID “red zone” in new York City earlier this moth. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There are only two ways to govern — through force or through collaboration. From the settlers’ first cry against taxation without representation, this country has always ruled by the latter.

Never, has this glorious history of American liberty seemed more distant than now. Since the start of the pandemic, both the Governor and the Mayor have enacted unjustifiable policies, bungled their outreach and communication to this community and reacted dangerously to the people who now conveniently serve as a media distraction.

Apologies are a good first step, but inequitable enforcement continues to handicap our businesses and residents. Shortsighted policies violating basic rules of economics and constitutional democracy enacted without legislative oversight are causing irreparable damage to our economy.

Local small businesses are essential. They account for 44% of economic activity and create two-thirds of net new jobs. However, months of mandated lockdown wiped many of them out. The latest heavy-handed cluster zone policies will decimate small businesses entirely and devastate neighborhoods. The damage will not be easily contained or repaired. New York will suffer. People everywhere will suffer.

In the name of public health and safety, the Governor has once again deemed thousands of small businesses in red zones non-essential and shut them down. The Governor is fond of telling us to follow the science, but no known science can make sense of his current cluster zone policies.

Can residents of red zones freely patronize small businesses just blocks away? Yes.

Can they shop in big box stores or malls with hundreds of strangers for hours on end? Yes.

Can they patronize businesses in bordering states with even higher rates of COVID-19? Yes.

Can they travel and spend their money anywhere in the world they please? Still yes. You get the picture.

Businesses deemed essential don’t have it any better. On top of the onerous regulations already in effect, a host of new regulations were imposed on businesses looking to reopen. With impressive speed and at great expense, business owners implemented the new health and safety requirements. Businesses I visited personally across this district displayed an impressive level of compliance despite many challenges and financial strain. People just wanted to get back to work.

Unfortunately, NYC has never met a tax or ticket it didn’t like, and this looks more like a revenue stream every day. A dentist in my district reopened his office. Only one masked patient is in the waiting room at a time. Temperature is taken upon entering and wall mounted sanitizer is used. Plexiglass is in place wherever necessary. Staff is minimal, socially distanced and masked. Their temperatures are taken multiple times daily. In a twisted game of Gotcha! he was issued a $1,000 fine because a temperature log was not posted on the wall. This exasperation was shared with me by a health professional. Words cannot adequately convey the pain and frustration expressed by ordinary shop owners. The stories are pouring in by the dozen. I struggle to understand how anyone can stand for this — and I challenge the Governor to convince me that anyone’s health is improved by these regulations.

It is obvious that at a time like this our Governor should be doing everything possible to keep regulatory practices down. He is not. Ticketing being the only job this city handles with enthusiasm, the Mayor’s vehement enforcement of trivial regulations has city agents slapping already battered New Yorkers with punitive, excessive fines they cannot afford. If the goal is to ensure health and safety practices are implemented properly, improve communication. City agents could help educate about the new requirements, if only they understood these confounding policies any better.

New York businesses don’t deserve this punishment. Their only sin is a desire to work when government policy is determined to bankrupt them. They cannot afford to pay these exorbitant fines, which should be forgiven immediately. We will fight for the bailout New York’s small business owners deserve with at least the same level of energy it took to blanket our district in tickets.

The consequences of lockdowns are disastrous, which is why the World Health Organization does not advocate lockdowns to control the virus. Recessions, hopelessness and joblessness take a terrible toll. People need more than a government handout. In the process of making a living, people find meaning and self-respect. They take pride in paying their bills and providing for their families. On the other hand, unemployment has well documented harmful effects. A vibrant economy is the result of effective policies and a productive populace. The people are the economy; and every one of them is ESSENTIAL!

Mr. Governor, you are fond of saying that New Yorkers are tough. Yet you are advocating policies that are “a fear driven response … policy being cut by a hatchet.” It takes courage to confront the intense and relentless challenges of this crisis. We are facing the uncertainty of our lives, our economy, and our world together. Fear cannot be our driving force. Fear leads to suspicion and mistrust. Fear prevents us from seeing the full picture. Fear prevents us from making thoughtful decisions. We are asking you to put fear in its place and LET OUR PEOPLE WORK.