SYRACUSE, NY – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has a problem in his city. His businesses are in Governor Cuomo’s “orange” pandemic zone and are closing all around him, many for good. Walsh said in a letter on January 4th to Cuomo that 35 businesses in his city have shut their doors, some temporarily, others permanently.
When asked if he received the mayor’s letter four days later, Cuomo admitted his pandemic zone response strategy is flawed and Syracuse has fallen victim to that flaw.
“I have a great deal of respect for the mayor, as soon as I get the letter, I will talk to them,” Cuomo said, acknowledging that his staff has withheld the very dire letter for days, without notifying the governor of its receipt.
Except the letter isn’t the first time the Governor’s underlings have kept the message from Cuomo.
“Working with your team, I have expressed on several occasions including this past weekend, my concerns about the impact of Orange Zone restrictions on small businesses, particularly restaurants, in the City of Syracuse,” Walsh wrote to the Governor. “To date, about 35 restaurants in my City have temporarily or permanently closed their doors during t he pandemic. We’ve seen an uptick in closures since the Orange Zone restrictions were put in place.”
Walsh said Cuomo’s one-size-fits-most plan is unfair to businesses in his city.
“With full understanding and painful awareness of the fact that our infection rate in Onondaga County is still too high and we are losing neighbors to the virus on a daily basis, I believe the current approach is not in keeping with the State’s commitment to following the data and is inherently unfair,” Walsh said. “While the Orange Zone in Onondaga County primarily impacts businesses in the City of Syracuse, the municipal boundaries in our metropolitan area have no bearing on how people actually move around. My concern at this stage is that instead of managing occupancy, the restrictions are creating a reverse effect in areas outside of the City of Syracuse.”
Walsh pointed out that all Cuomo’s pandemic zone plan does is force people to drive further to get the services they need, as referenced in a letter by a nearby resident.
“We get lots of people from Syracuse that can’t dine indoors, and it is scary,” the letter to Walsh said.
“This report is consistent with many others we are receiving. Just as your Administration has recently done with schools, gyms, and salons, I respectfully, but urgently, request that you revise the current zones and/or restrictions to more accurately reflect the actual data on how and where the virus is being spread as soon as possible,” Walsh pleaded. “County Executive McMahon has suggested putting the entire County in a yellow zone, and I support that offer. Our business owners are ready and willing to get creative and pilot new strategies to keep people safe.”
Cuomo has still yet to publicly address Walsh’s concerns, but on Monday reversed his business closing strategy, saying businesses must reopen.