He’s the man with no plan!
New Yorkers are already pouring into the streets for drinks, eats and protests but Mayor Bill de Blasio still won’t say when New York City’s reopening will reach Phase Two — or detail other key plans for summer heat relief, business operation and transportation.
Hizzoner’s handling of the coronavirus reopening has exasperated and frustrated virtually all aspects of Gotham’s business and political spectrum, leaving shop owners confused and lawmakers threatening legislation in an attempt to jawbone de Blasio into action.
“An utter lack of foresight and vision has been a defining feature of the de Blasio administration’s response to this pandemic,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson told The Post. “The city has consistently failed to plan ahead and now we’re headed towards Phase Two of reopening with more questions than answers on everything from buses to beaches.”
City Hall promised it would dramatically simplify the process for restaurants and bars to score permits for outdoor seating space — which advocates say is essential to helping them stay in business as the world awaits a coronavirus vaccine — but has yet to even begin accepting applications or detail how the new process will work.
That initiative only came after Johnson threatened to pass a law that would require City Hall to come up with such a program after Chicago and Cincinnati unveiled post-lockdown cafe dining initiatives.
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg promised Tuesday that City Hall would finally roll out the plan later this week during a forum hosted by the magazine City & State.
There is still no date for when city playgrounds might reopen and conservative Jewish politicians and neighborhood activist cut the locks off of parks in predominantly Orthodox neighborhoods Monday and Tuesday in frustration. That came as Manhattan’s liberal borough president, Gale Brewer, castigated de Blasio for still not having a summer plan.
“@NYCMayor, what’s the plan to make sure kids have open spaces to play this summer? It’s not ok that some can afford to go to day camps upstate, while the kids in the city have to stay cooped up inside,” she wrote. “We need a plan, and we need it fast.”
De Blasio insisted Tuesday morning that he would not reevaluate the playground closure policy until New York’s reopening reaches Phase Two — all while refusing to provide any target date for the further relaxing of coronavirus restrictions, which under state guidelines could happen as soon as Monday, June 22.
Nor is there a date for when City Hall might sign off on swimming at city beaches — while the head of the powerful municipal employees union, Henry Garrido, shot down Hizzoner’s suggestion that public pools could open after de Blasio floated that notion.
“Summer comes at the same time every year, so I don’t know why we’re acting like we’re caught off guard,” said Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) said. “It seems like City Hall just forgot to plan for it.”
Things aren’t much better when it comes to transit and transportation as the threat of coronavirus keeps straphangers off the subways — even after the backlash that came two weeks ago when de Blasio suggested such plans weren’t his responsibility and told reporters that New Yorkers “are going to have to improvise” ways around town.
De Blasio last week announced plans for 20 miles of new bus lanes and busways with more promised — but only after the MTA requested 60 miles and the City Council threatened legislation that would force him to build 40 miles.
That plan followed weeks of controversy as de Blasio resisted calls from the Council to close down city streets as a way to make more room for social distancing and criticism over City Hall’s coronavirus bike lane expansion plan that included just nine new miles of bike lanes, all from projects that were previously in the works.
Meanwhile, Paris is rolling out plans to install more than 450 miles of new bike lanes as part of its effort to reduce crowding on transit as the city moves to reopen, according to a study released by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. That group is led by Janette Sadik-Khan, who was former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Transportation Commissioner.
“DOT staring down reduced budgets, and they’re trying to satisfy a million demands with limited street space that everyone wants a piece of — restaurants and businesses, car owners, bus riders, bicyclists and freight companies,” said Nick Sifuentes, who heads the transit advocacy group Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
But, he added: “What I hope to see is a grand coordinated plan from City Hall that lays out what this vision will look like, but time is kind of the essence here.”
City Hall hit back against the criticism, saying de Blasio has faced unprecedented challenges juggling the COVID-19 crisis that’s killed more than 22,000 New Yorkers and managing the mass protests in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd.
“This is going to be a summer unlike any other — and we have all hands on deck as we find ways to keep New Yorkers cool, safely reopen bars and restaurants, and provide safe, fast, and reliable transit options,” said de Blasio spokesman Mitch Schwartz.
“From our popular and nation-leading Open Streets program, to our plan to provide 74,000 AC units to seniors in need, to the most ambitious bus lane installation effort in city history, we’ve made some encouraging progress already.”
He added: “But we know there’s more to do, and we look forward to announcing more plans in the coming days and weeks.”