East End officials are challenging New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s assertion that there are rampant violations in “the Hamptons” of the reopening rules for businesses coming out of the COVID-19 shutdown. The governor threatened, potentially, to shut East End businesses down.
Local officials are asking where in the Hamptons, exactly, is the governor seeing all these violations? According to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the governor simply “threw the Hamptons under the bus.”
“Manhattan and the Hamptons are the leading areas in the state with violations,” Governor Cuomo said during his daily briefing Sunday, noting that there had been 25,000 complaints statewide. Some photos and video of social distancing being ignored or masks not being worn were even sent to him personally, he said. “These are not hard to spot violations. People send video of these violations — you can look it up on social media. You don’t need a detective squad to go out and find them.”
Judging from the response of local officials, Governor Cuomo might want to send out that detective squad, because local officials aren’t seeing the violations the governor said are happening.
On Monday, East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said that this past weekend, “We had two complaints.” Chief Sarlo repeated that number for emphasis. “Two.”
Code enforcement has been fanning out across the Town of East Hampton, visiting restaurants and businesses that are returning to life. “A majority of people are in compliance. Businesses are working hard to ensure that guidelines are followed. If Albany is receiving complaints, we welcome those being forwarded for us to follow up on. This doesn’t appear to have anything to do with us,” Chief Sarlo said about the town he oversees.
Schneiderman agrees. “We are not seeing it either,” he said about the alleged violations. “I’m not sure what the governor is talking about. Did he mean to imply that we are all not following the rules?” the supervisor asked. “They have been setting the rules, and we have been enforcing them. We have been working around the clock for three months. If he has information, he needs to share it with us.”
“The Hamptons” does not just refer to the towns of East Hampton and Southampton, Schneiderman pointed out, but also several independent villages. Where on the map, he asked, are these violations occurring? Schneiderman, along with East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, had a long call with the governor’s office Monday afternoon, seeking clarification on what these violations were that the governor referenced.
Schneiderman said he came away from the conversation with the governor’s office (Cuomo was not on the call) as confused as he was going into it. “I don’t know how to treat the governor’s comments,” he said after hanging up with Albany.
“Can you please share with us any complaints you have? If there is a problem, nobody here is aware of it,” Schneiderman said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Monday that he is following up with the state, too. “We’ve not seen a significant number of complaints,” he said, though officials are sending reminders to businesses to ensure they are fully aware of the guidelines so that no rollback occurs. “This is something nobody wants to see happen.”
Update: On June 18, the governor strengthened the State Liquor Authority’s ability to enforce the rules. Read more here.
Taylor K. Vecsey contributed reporting