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NYC indoor dining possible with city enforcement, Cuomo says

Indoor dining has not resumed in New York

Indoor dining has not resumed in New York City, unlike the rest of the state. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he wants to lift his monthslong ban on indoor restaurant dining in New York City, but only if the city takes steps such as deploying 4,000 cops — more than 10% of the NYPD — to enforce reduced-capacity limits.

Cuomo did not impose a similar burden on other jurisdictions in New York State, where he has permitted dining to resume indoors — including on Long Island, where the ban, in place for months, was lifted in June.

At a news briefing Thursday, Cuomo suggested that the city government set up a COVID-19 enforcement task force and deploy some 4,000 NYPD cops to monitor restaurant compliance. There are about 36,000 cops on the force, though most don’t work at the same time.

“If we now open restaurants, that is going to complicate by the hundreds if not thousands the number of establishments that have to be monitored,” Cuomo said. “How is that going to happen? I don’t have any more state resources to do it.”

Cuomo did not explain why indoor dining in New York City poses more of a risk, in terms of compliance or infection, compared to the rest of the state.

In Suffolk “no officers are exclusively assigned to restaurant enforcement. Officers perform proactive checks as part of their normal patrol duties,” the county police department press office wrote in an unsigned email.

Asked how many cops are tasked with enforcement duty in Nassau, county police spokesman Lt. Richard Lebrun wrote in an email: “If there are any observed violations with regard to pandemic capacity of restaurants in Nassau County, complainants can call 911 and a police officer will respond to the location and investigate the infraction.”

Indoor capacity in the state is capped at 50% of normal, not counting employees, everywhere but the city.

Indoor dining resumes on Friday in New Jersey at 25% capacity.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s aiming to say by the end of September whether indoor dining would be permitted for the rest of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indoor dining has been “linked to problems around the country, around the world,” he said. His health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, said that officials are “paying particular attention to when masks are not able to be worn for the entire duration of when someone is indoors.”

Indoor dining in the city was to be allowed in July before being walked back over fears it could spread the virus.

Asked Thursday about Cuomo’s comments at the news conference, de Blasio said: “I’m not going to comment on whatever the governor says on any given day.”

Cuomo said he wants the NYPD to conduct enforcement rather than rely on the smaller force from the municipal sheriff's office — which de Blasio has used for some pandemic-related enforcement — because the State Liquor Authority and the State Police have had to step in to enforce all other restrictions related to outdoor dining and bars and travel quarantine.

“We have to do airport compliance, we have to do bridge and tunnel compliance … we have to do malls … casino compliance … and now school compliance,” Cuomo said. “My opinion is [restaurants] should open. The question is how.”

Referring to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Cuomo said: “If Speaker Johnson wants to say, ‘We’ll have a dedicated task force of NYPD officers who will do this and if the size of that task force matches what we need to monitor, I’m open to that, I’m open to suggestions. I want to open the restaurants in New York City. The economic damage is extraordinary. I don’t want to enter a situation where we say we’re opening thousands of restaurants and we don’t have the capacity to monitor it.”

It wasn't clear why Cuomo is dealing with Johnson and not de Blasio on the issue.

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