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Amid lingering pandemic, furloughs transition to permanent layoffs

Flying Tiger Copenhagen, a Danish variety store, is

Flying Tiger Copenhagen, a Danish variety store, is shuttering all U.S. locations.  Here, the Roosevelt Field store.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Across Long Island, layoffs that for some companies began as temporary measures following pandemic lockdowns are becoming permanent.

In all, about 472 employees received pink slips over the past two months, according to worker-notification notices filed with the state. More than half are retail workers who are expected to be released just after the new year.

Among those transitioning from temporary to permanent staff cuts are stores, a fitness club chain and a law firm, according to recent state filings that give employees notice of pending job cuts.

At the same time, other companies faced with changes in company logistics are also laying off employees, including a Canada Dry Bottling distribution facility in Melville, which announced last week its plant was "purchased by another company" and that it would permanently lay off 62 workers on or about Jan. 31, according to a state filing.

Reginald Goins, president and chief operating officer of National Brand Bottling, confirmed the layoff notices but noted that the transaction could see the employees transition to the new owner, a division of Dr Pepper, which took over the distribution center and rights to the brands. "Those employees may very well work" for the new occupant of the building, Goins said, calling the notice "a formality that was necessary due to the transaction."

Others permanently idling some workers include BNB Bank and Green Gobbler, a chemical company in Copiague.

Under the state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, companies with at least 50 full-time employees in New York must give workers a 90-day notice of a mass layoff or closing. Smaller firms are not required to file the notices.

Among the companies whose temporary furloughs are becoming permanent is New Hyde Park law firm Mintz, Baker and Sonnenfeldt LLP. A total of 34 employees who were originally furloughed on March 30 for "economic" reasons will see that status extended to Jan. 1, at which point they "will become permanent" layoffs, according to its state WARN-Act filing. A lawyer at the firm listed as a contact in the filings didn't return calls seeking comment.

'Economic shock'

Mariano Torras, chair of the finance and economics department at Adelphi University in Garden City, said the transition to permanent layoffs on Long Island is "a microcosm of what is happening at the national level."

"The magnitude of the economic shock we have seen ensures that many unpredictable spillovers and secondary effects are all but inevitable," he said. "It is what we are seeing in retail, offices, cleaning product businesses" and others, he said.

John Rizzo, economist at the Long Island Association business group, added that the main reason job losses are becoming permanent is that companies "lack sufficient capital to sustain themselves throughout the lengthy pandemic. This problem is particularly acute for small businesses, which form the backbone of Long Island's economy."

Retailer Flying Tiger Copenhagen, which specializes in specialty gift items, also announced that its March 17 layoffs first listed as temporary will become permanent on the last day of 2020. The chain announced in a post on Facebook that it would be closing all of its U.S. stores, including two Long Island locations, at Walt Whitman mall in Huntington Station, where a WARN notice said 15 employees will be idled, and at Roosevelt Field in Garden City. Three New York City locations also will be closed, affecting a total of 84 employees, according to a separate filing, which cited "unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19." Calls to the company's Manhattan headquarters weren't answered.

Subscription clothing retailer Le Tote, owner of shuttering Lord & Taylor department stores, both operating under bankruptcy protection, disclosed in state notices that it’s laying off about 267 employees by the end of the year. Beginning Dec. 31, layoffs will start for 101 Le Tote workers in Garden City, 76 in Manhasset, 46 in Bay Shore and another 44 in Huntington Station, and continue for two weeks thereafter, according to the state filing that cites COVID-19 impacts. A call to the company wasn’t returned. Le Tote had previously announced plans to close all 38 of its Lord & Taylor department stores, including four on Long Island, and had been attempting to sell the Le Tote clothing rental service.

Cuts made permanent

Equinox fitness clubs throughout the region are also making some temporary layoffs permanent, according to its state filing, including one fitness club in Great Neck, where 14 employees will be permanently laid off. The company in March started a program of reduced hours and furloughs for 1,193 employees, with about 311 permanently laid off through Oct. 9. The company, with dozens of New York City locations as well as clubs in Roslyn and Woodbury, also cited the "unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19." A call to the headquarters office said it was closed.

Another company that announced it was closing its Long Island plant and moving the operations to another state was Eco Clean Solutions, a chemical plant which operates in Suffolk as Green Gobbler in Copiague.

"The business will be shutting down production completely" on Jan. 22 or up to two weeks after that date, its state filing said, affecting 48 employees. Around a dozen will stay on through mid-February. Eco vice president Lisa Schmidt didn't return calls seeking comment.

Eco's state filing says the company decided to "transition these [Long Island] operations" to its Gumee, Ill., site, and close the plant. Eco Clean, maker of environmentally friendly cleaning products under the Green Gobbler brand, in 2016 received about $258,700 in tax breaks from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency for hiring milestones, Newsday reported at the time.

BNB Bank in Hauppauge said it was moving to permanently lay off 31 employees starting in January and continuing through April, citing a recent merger. The Bridgehampton-based company announced in July it was merging with Dime Community Bank of Brooklyn. BNB senior vice president Austin Stonitsch confirmed the staff cuts.

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