Still, Don’t Forget Your Mask;
Southside Mall Closed For Now
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ALBANY – Shortly after 1 p.m., Governor Cuomo made it official: “Businesses in ‘Phase One’ can now move to ‘Phase 2’,” he said.
The declaration ended a 77-day hiatus for most non-box stores in New York State, including those in Otsego County, since the governor declared a state of emergency March 13 as COVID-19 arrived in earnest.
“’Phase 2’ is good news,” said Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego Chamber of Commerce president. “It’s moving the economy forward.”
As a result, in Otsego County stores, offices, real estate, commercial building management, and hair salons and barber shops can open their doors, subject to social-distancing measures.
Vehicle sales and leasing were also included, but it’s unclear how this “new normal” differs from a separate agreement reached May 7 with the New York Automobile Dealers Association, at which time showrooms reopened locally.
“Phase One” kicked in May 15, and covered manufacturing and construction, and allowed some retail curbside pickup, an idea that didn’t seem to pick up much traction locally.
One surprise today involved Southside Mall, where locally owned stores were ready to open over the weekend. Malls were excluded from the “Phase 2” list, except outlets with doors to the outside.
“I wish I knew,” replied Mall Manager Luisa Montanti, when asked about the mall exclusion. “I have no inside information … When you look at our mall, it’s small when you compare it to Crossgates. People tend to congregate at a mall.” Maybe that’s the reason, she said.
The arrival of “Phase 2” was expected locally yesterday, but it was delayed until mid-afternoon, then the evening, then overnight. At the start of business today, the regulations guiding “Phase 2” were posted on the forward.ny.gov website.
Meanwhile, she’s contacted state Sen. Jim Seward’s office, and was told the senator is asking the governor’s office to distinguish between big suburban and urban malls and regional rural ones like Southside. Regardless, she said, malls are in “Phase 3,” which will arrive in two weeks.
The final word didn’t come until the governor’s press conference, but shortly after noon, Otsego County board Chairman David Bliss declared “Phase 2” in effect.
At his daily briefing, the governor said he was awaiting vetting by national and even global experts before releasing of the guidelines.
With the date moving around – originally “Phase 2” wasn’t expected to happy until mid-June – and the last-minute uncertainty, downtowns didn’t immediately erupt in activity.
Mayor Bill di Blasio spoke at the briefing, and advised the governor New York City has met two of three parameters, and may begin some easing of restrictions next week.
At LJ’s Sassy Boutique in downtown Cooperstown, Laura Jane Alexander was displaying inventory. “Grand opening at 10 a.m. tomorrow,” she called out.
In downtown Oneonta, Nate Roberts was almost immediately hanging his “Open” sign on Serenity Hobbies on Main Street. More activity will undoubtedly be evident Saturday morning.
With offices opening, too, Scott Curtis at Cooperstown Financial Services this afternoon was advising Fred Field Jr. and his brother Jozeph, who was laid off from oil rigs in Louisiana a month ago when corinavirus arrived there.
And, yes, everyone was 6-feet apart, said Curtis, pulling out a yardstick to prove it.