New York Politicians at Loggerheads Over Looting

David Moin and Jean E. Palmieri

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New York City is still on track to enter Phase 1 of reopening on Monday, despite the chaos that is currently raging throughout the city.

Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in separate press briefings Tuesday morning that the number of coronavirus cases has dropped to the point that retail stores can expect to reopen for curbside and in-store pickup on June 8.

However, because of the looting that has been rampant in Manhattan for the past several nights, store owners and operators are spending more time cleaning up broken glass and hammering plywood over their entrances than preparing their stores to welcome back customers.

The two politicians, who are often at loggerheads, disagreed once again when discussing the issue of looting. Cuomo was blunt in his criticism, saying: “The NYPD and the Mayor did not do their jobs last night.” While he added that he has confidence in the New York City Police Department to contain the violence, he said, “Look at the videos, it was a disgrace. What happened in New York City was inexcusable.” He said de Blasio “underestimated” the scope as well as the duration of the problem and needed to deploy the full power of the police to stem that problem.

He said the NYPD has 38,000 officers — the largest police force in America — and the city needs to use every one of them to protect property and the public.

Cuomo stopped short, however, on saying that he will “displace” the mayor — essentially remove him from office — and use his emergency powers to bring in the National Guard. Although Cuomo has 13,000 National Guard members on standby, de Blasio has said that he has no intention of bringing them into the city. 

During his briefing, de Blasio said he believes it is “not wise” to deploy the National Guard or other armed forces in New York City. He said “nothing good comes out of it” when military, who are “not trained for circumstances in New York City” are brought in. Instead, he believes the NYPD are “best equipped to deal with the situation.”

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that on Monday night, officers arrested in excess of 700 looters around the city. Although the violence was expected to continue to be centered around SoHo and Union Square as it had been on Sunday evening, it actually moved north on Monday, he said, running from 23rd Street into the 50s, as well as in an “isolated” area of the Bronx, Shea said.

Although there were numerous incidents of looters stealing merchandise from ransacked stores with impunity, Shea and de Blasio bristled at that characterization, again pointing to the arrest totals.

The city is expanding the curfew that was instituted on Monday at 11 p.m. De Blasio said beginning Tuesday and through Sunday, it will extend from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. each day, which he believes will “magnify our strength and control the situation.” In addition, cars were barred from traveling south of 96th Street in Manhattan during the curfew.

De Blasio also implored community and civic leaders, block associations, the clergy and everyday New Yorkers to “stand up” against the looters and “step forward to create peace.

“We will overcome this and we will beat it back.”

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