Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 emergency powers have remained unchecked, critics say.
In March 2020, while COVID-19 was sweeping the state, lawmakers granted the governor broad emergency powers that allowed him to override any state and local law.
Just recently, state lawmakers passed a bill that would limit that authority, with some Democrats claiming that this was a rollback of Cuomo’s emergency powers.
However, many lawmakers say this legislation does not go far enough.
“Ask a local business who's been impacted by these mandates whether anything has majorly changed for them since they supposedly took the powers away,” Assemblyman Edward Ra said. “They're still at the whims of the governor on a day-to-day basis, and in particular, the bars and restaurants, I think, feel very singled out at this point.”
This legislation prevents Cuomo from issuing any new emergency directives, but it does allow him to extend already existing orders, as long as he provides notice to the state Legislature.
On April 19, Cuomo issued an order that expanded the restaurant curfew from 11 p.m. to midnight, saying that the order continues to protect the “health and welfare of the public.”
On Monday, Cuomo again defended the state’s restaurant restrictions, saying there was justification to close restaurants and bars at midnight, rather than 2 a.m.
"National experts will say that it is a source of spread and one of the more significant sources of spread,” Cuomo said. “Forty-one people died yesterday...You can't just dismiss that. We're not past it, we're getting past it.”
The New York Restaurant Association fired back, saying there is still no science behind closing restaurants at midnight.
“Curfew restrictions on restaurants are not based on facts,” Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association said. “We have yet to see data confirming that a restaurant staying open later at night is riskier than an afternoon. It’s time to remove these arbitrary restrictions. Let’s create a plan that details full reopening for our industry. Most other states have that already. Our operators and their communities need to know. On top of that, any suggestion that the hospitality sector had anything to do with the 41 COVID-19 deaths that the state reported from yesterday is misleading and irresponsible.”
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said this criticism that Democrats are complicit in allowing Cuomo’s emergency powers to remain unbridled is just politics.
“This is just a political attack by Republicans who have done absolutely nothing to stand up for a decade to Andrew Cuomo,” Gianaris said. “We will continue to monitor the directives as they go forward, but they will end when this state of emergency is over. In the meantime, the Legislature has additional oversight.”
Cuomo was also once again flanked by Democratic lawmakers at his press conference on Monday.
At the last few events, Cuomo has been joined by Democrats who have called for him to resign, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
This move has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, and even Cuomo downplayed the majority leader’s calls for his resignation after she appeared by his side at an event.
“People take political positions every day,” Cuomo said. “We often have different political positions. I understand that. But we separate political positions and our official duties.”
Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins reacted to these comments at the time, saying, “this is not about politics and to suggest otherwise is offensive. The governor should resign.”
Still, this has led to even more Democrats joining Cuomo’s side once again, including Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli.
“I think the optics of it are bad,” Ra said. “To go appear at something with somebody who you've said can’t effectively lead our state, I think sends a very mixed signal to the public.”
“There's instances where there's very important things that happen in some people's districts, they feel the need to be there for their constituents, I certainly don't hold that against anyone,” Gianaris said. “The important thing is take these accusations seriously, investigate them seriously and take action based on the conclusions.”
The state Senate's investigations committee also announced that lawmakers have now issued information and document requests to the builders of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project amid safety concerns over the construction of the new bridge.