May 17, 2021

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N.Y.C.’s Mayor Wants City to ‘Fully Reopen’ on July 1 – The New York Times

3 min read

New York City aims to fully reopen on July 1 and allow businesses including restaurants, shops and stadiums to operate at full capacity, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday, offering a tantalizing glimpse of normalcy even as his authority to actually lift restrictions on businesses was somewhat limited.

Mr. de Blasio, who made the remarks on MSNBC, said that gyms, hair salons, arenas, some theaters and museums should all expect to be open fully with no capacity limits. Broadway, he said, was on track to open in September.

At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. de Blasio added that he wanted the subways, which currently shut down for two hours overnight for cleaning and disinfecting, to be restored to 24-hour service by July.

“Our plan is to fully reopen New York City on July 1,” he said on MSNBC. “We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters — full strength.”

But so far in the pandemic, Mr. de Blasio has not had the authority to impose or lift capacity limits on such businesses. Those restrictions have been set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state, and on Thursday, a spokesman for the governor maintained that Mr. Cuomo had the power to make those decisions.

Mr. de Blasio said at the news conference he had not spoken to Mr. Cuomo about his reopening plan.

Mr. de Blasio said that the city expected vaccinations to drive down new coronavirus cases over the next two months. From a second-wave peak of nearly 8,000 cases in a single day in January, New York City was averaging about 2,000 virus cases per day as of last week. Public health officials say that by July, if the city stays on its current trajectory, that number could drop to below 600 cases a day, perhaps lower.

“We now have the confidence we can pull all these pieces together, and get life back together,” Mr. de Blasio said. “This is going to be the summer of New York City.”

The city and the state have not always agreed on the best path forward.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, Bill Neidhardt, called the full reopening of the city on July 1 a “goal that we know New York City can achieve.”

“We laid out a plan, we will back it up with skyrocketing vaccination numbers and declining cases. If someone wants to deny that, let’s have that discussion in public,” Mr. Neidhardt said. “We feel strongly we’d win that debate.”

The state announced the roll back of several restrictions this week. The New York State Legislature on Wednesday suspended an unpopular pandemic directive issued by Mr. Cuomo that required customers to order food when purchasing alcohol at bars and restaurants. And Mr. Cuomo announced that a curfew that forced bars and restaurants to close early would end statewide on May 17 for outdoor dining areas and May 31 for indoor dining.

Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo said that next month the state would raise the capacity limits on offices statewide to 75 percent from 50 percent, and on gyms outside New York City to 50 percent from 33 percent. Last month he raised the maximum capacity for indoor dining at restaurants in New York City to 50 percent, up from 35 percent. Restaurants in the remainder of the state are allowed to serve customers at 75 percent occupancy.

The mayor’s announcement was positive news for the restaurant, bar and hotel industries, though questions remained on how Mr. de Blasio planned to move forward.

“It’s excellent and very welcome news for New York City, but we need all the details of what fully reopen means,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Mr. Rigie said restaurants and bars would need a timeline of what would come next and which rules, like recording customers’ temperatures, would remain in place. The restaurant and bar industry still employs about 140,000 fewer people in New York than before the pandemic, he said.

Even if a reopening is imminent, the hotel industry is years away from returning to normalcy, said Vijay Dandapani, the president of the Hotel Association of New York City. Many international borders remain closed and companies are still holding meetings and conferences over Zoom instead of traveling to hotels.

“It’s a very positive step, but you’ve just about begun to crawl when there’s a long way walking and running,” Mr. Dandapani said.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.

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