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De Blasio splits with Cuomo, wants stricter standards for indoor NYC dining


Gov. Andrew Cuomo speak during a news conference on the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in New York alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo address reporters at a news conference in the spring. | Getty Images

It’s the latest disagreement between the two rival pols on how to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio split with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to allow indoor dining in New York City, saying he wanted a later opening date and a firm requirement to shut restaurants back down if infection rates rise.

De Blasio said Wednesday that a deal was still in the works between the city and the state to green light indoor dining. About an hour later, he said Cuomo’s office informed City Hall that they planned to go ahead with an announcement without him.

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It’s the latest disagreement between the two rival pols on how to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

“The city took a very conservative position on this matter. And I’m the person who believes we need to be conservative and cautious,” de Blasio said at a press briefing Thursday.

Cuomo cleared indoor restaurants to reopen on Sept. 30 with 25 percent of their usual tables. They’ll also be required to check customers’ temperatures at the door and collect personal information for contact tracing, and seating at bars will be banned.

De Blasio said he wanted a later start date — with indoor dining now scheduled to begin just over a week after schools open for in-person classes.

He’s pushing for a rule that would require indoor dining to stop if the city’s positive test rate hits 2 percent on a seven-day rolling average. Cuomo, who ultimately controls the decision, agreed only to reevaluate the decision if infection rates jump.

“It should be that if we get to 2 percent, we pause. Because if we’re already at 2 percent, it means something’s moving in the wrong direction, and we need to take quick measures to stop that from growing,” de Blasio said. “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen around a lot of the world is indoor dining has had a direct connection to some of the resurgences we’ve seen.”

The mayor said his staff and Cuomo’s have been in talks for weeks about indoor dining plans, but got only a brief heads up before the governor announced his decision.

“The state made clear that they felt they were ready. We expressed our view as the city, and they went forward with their policy,” de Blasio said.

The mayor and the governor have clashed repeatedly on safety measures as the pandemic unfolded. Cuomo for days resisted de Blasio’s calls to shut down the city in March. And when de Blasio announced that city schools would stay closed through the end of the last school year, Cuomo insisted no decision had been made on the matter.

The governor has repeatedly chided the mayor for what he calls lax enforcement of social distancing rules in the city, especially at bars and restaurants, though POLITICO has reported that other jurisdictions have no stronger enforcement than the city.

Cuomo brushed off the mayor’s concerns at his own briefing Thursday.

“The mayor was fully consulted, and I know there were conversations until we just walked into the room,” he said.

“We had a lot of interested parties, we had health experts, Washington health experts, international health experts. The restaurateurs were lobbying for their position,” the governor said. “The mayor had a position, other elected officials had a position. We were consulting everyone and trying to do the best we could to take everyone’s opinion into consideration.”

New York City restaurants have been serving customers outdoors since June as part of the city’s gradual reopening from its coronavirus shutdown, with restaurant tables taking over parking spaces and sidewalks.

But with fall approaching, pressure has mounted to allow eateries to open their indoor space. A number of restaurants have sued the state and the city, which this summer canceled plans to allow indoor dining in July as Covid-19 cases were rising around the country.

Despite his disagreements with the state rules, de Blasio said it was “good news” that indoor restaurants would finally be allowed to open.

But asked what advice they’d give New Yorkers unsure of whether it’s safe to dine indoors, de Blasio and his health commissioner advised caution.

“I know everyone is asking the same question: Is it safe?” said Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, adding that restaurants must be vigilant about keeping tables at least 6 feet apart and diners should wear their masks when they’re not eating. “All of those things, taken together, will help make it a more safe dining experience. And then we have to continually monitor.”

Anna Gronewold contributed to this report.

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