While NYC awaits the green light to resume business as usual, several local elected officials want the borough of Staten Island to reopen for business. New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has the final word on that.
That word is “no.”
A letter sent to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo ( and signed by New York State Assembly Members Nicole Malliotakis and Michael Reilly, New York State Senator Andrew Lanza, New York City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo and New York City Council Member Joseph Borelli) stated that they have met all the metrics established by Albany to reopen and the governor should let them do so immediately.
“The small businesses in our community are not the only ones facing the threat of closing permanently due to the inability to reopen now,” read the letter. “The ban on elective surgery is also having an impact on the financial well-being of our hospitals many of which were struggling to survive prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
According to the governor’s office, the seven metrics that need to be met for an area of the state to reopen include a 14-day decline in hospitalizations, a 14-day decline in hospitalized deaths or under 5 new hospitalized deaths via a three-day average, share of total beds available meeting the 30% threshold, shares of ICU beds available meeting the same threshold, 30 per 1,000 resident tested monthly via a seven-day average of new tests per day and 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents or to meet current infection rates.
According to statistics from City Hall, neighborhoods in Staten Island have a percentage of positive COVID-19 cases anywhere between 26% of 36% depending on the neighborhood. Port Richmond leads the pack with 36.9% of resident testing positive.
The governor said he’s not ready to set Staten Island free yet.
During a recent media briefing, Cuomo told reporters that he’s aware of Staten Island residents considering themselves a separate entity since its connected to the other four boroughs via only bridges and a ferry. However, they’re still a part of New York.
“…I understand the Staten Island mentality and I love Staten Island and I have a lot of friends there. But it’s not a place unto itself for this purpose,” said Cuomo. “If you live on Staten Island, you very well may be working in Manhattan…you’re traveling through the New York City area. So Staten Island is part of New York City. Queens is part of New York City. Brooklyn is part of New York City. Bronx is part of New York City.
“But Staten Island just practically is still part of New York City and that’s the region in which the infection would spread,” Cuomo said.
It’s not the first time a member of the Cuomo family and Staten Island have been linked in politics.
In 1993, when Mayor David Dinkins was fighting to stave off challenger Rudolph Giuliani in the mayoral election, then New York State Gov. Mario Cuomo (Andrew’s father) put the referendum of Staten Island seceding from New York City on the ballot leading to more votes for Giuliani in the heavily conservative borough. Those extra votes put Giuliani over the top and led to Dinkins’ defeat. The referendum was nonbinding.
Last year, Joe Borelli and Matteo drafted a bill that would create a committee to issue a report on Staten Island’s possible secession. Borelli and Matteo claimed that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is out of touch with the issues Staten Island residents care about.
The fight to reopen the borough is another chapter in Staten Island vs. the rest of New York City.
U.S. Congressman Max Rose wants the borough to reopen too, but only if the federal government ensures its safety. Rose has called for the federal government to utilize the Defense Production Act to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer and all other necessary supplies needed for small businesses can reopen safely.
“The federal government must meet the needs of these small business owners, particularly due to the great sacrifices they’ve made, and continue to make, to survive this public health and economic crisis,” wrote Rose in a letter to Pres. Donald Trump.
New York City Council Member Debi Rose, however, thinks that her borough isn’t ready for reopening and thinks it would be a big mistake to think physical separations between the boroughs won’t lead to more COVID-19 cases.
“This pandemic has taken a tragic and disproportionate toll on Black and Brown communities,” said Rose in a statement to the AmNews. “…I am not in favor of rushing the opening of the city. The human cost must be valued and held with at least the same or more importance as the economic cost. Yes, reopening is necessary, but it must be done at the careful direction of public health officials, whose education and expertise I respect.
“They have set benchmarks and guidelines that we need to follow if we are to avoid a second, possibly more tragic wave of this disease,” Rose concluded.