New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo fears a New York City revival will stall unless private sector employers require workers return to the office, and NYC actively addresses gun violence, homelessness and high taxes.
In a wide-ranging online briefing hosted by public interest group ABNY (Association for a Better New York), Cuomo also said the state will mandate that all patient-facing hospital workers be vaccinated.
He spoke as the spreading Delta variant prompted the CDC yesterday to reinstate indoor mask mandates in areas with high or substantial rates of transmission. In New York, most of NYC is substantial (Staten Island is high). With the exception of Green, Nassau and Suffolk counties – also substantial — the rest of the state is moderate or low.
“The Delta variant is in many ways déjà vu all over again,” Cuomo said. The same could be said for the governor again rallying around “New York tough” and exhorting New Yorkers to come together like they did early last year when the state was the epicenter of the global pandemic. Those were good moments for him, before investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and fudging Covid-19 death sta3tistics in nursing homes, all of which he has denied.
Regarding NYC, “Zoom does not go away. Zoom showed society a different way of relating and working… People are going to have to want to come back to New York City… Are those people going to come back from the Hamptons, from Aspen, from Florida? We don’t know.”
“If you were to see a 15% decline of people coming back to New York City that would have a devastating impact,” he said.
He urged private employers to “say to your workforce, ‘By Labor Day, everyone is back to the office.’ We need that volume to support the restaurants, the shops, the services… We know what we need, and that is it.” But his request comes even the Delta variant messes with many companies’ office return policies. Google, for instance, just postponed its back-to-office mandate until October.
He said reducing crime and homelessness and lowering taxes is also key. “I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, ‘I just don’t feel safe in New York City.'”
“Homelessness is a major problem in New York City. It is sad to see people in that situation and it can be dangerous.”
“And it is expensive [here]. People say, ‘I would rather stay where I am and not pay New York City taxes.”
He said he thinks Eric Adams “gets it,” referring to the Democratic mayoral candidate and NYCs presumed next mayor after elections in November.
“I believe he understands this. More than that, I believe he can actually do it,” he said in a bit of a jab at outgoing Bill de Blasio.
“There are two elements. Do they get it, do they understand it? And do they have the confidence to get something done? It takes a special personality to lead the face of opposition. I think Eric Adams is going to do a great job and I am excited to work with him.”
(Separately, De Blasio announced today that starting Friday the city will hand out $100 dollars to New Yorkers who get a first dose Covid-19 vaccine at a city-run site.)
Cuomo also urged private employers to admit only vaccinated people onto their premises. “I want to go safe restaurants and theaters and bars and I think it’s good business for the private sector and provides good incentives to get the vaccine.” He gave a shout-out to James Dolan, owner of Radio City Music Hall, which led the way, opening in May and requiring proof of vaccination for all major events.
Springsteen on Broadway, which opened at Jujamcyn’s St. James Theatre last month at full capacity also required vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the state will require patient-facing health care workers be vaccinated, without the weekly testing option available to other state employees. “That is a point of contact that could be a serious spreading event,” he said.
If Covid numbers keep rising, he said, school districts “should strongly consider taking more aggressive action. It will be hard if we don’t take the right action. Schools can become super spreaders in September.” The CDC is advising masking in schools.
New York State (and others) will have wider legal authority to enforce the vaccine once the FDA moves it from emergency use to final approval.