Residents worry about social distancing as businesses try to survive

June 16, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Residents worry about social distancing as businesses try to survive
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Like many neighborhoods, Bay Ridge eateries and shops are eager to open after the COVID- 19 pandemic. However, some locals are worried that their neighbors aren’t adhering to CDC guidelines, such as wearing a mask in public and keeping six feet apart.

“Boost Bay Ridge” was advertised via social media as an event to get people outside and supporting their local businesses. Thus far, there have been two events, on Saturday, June 6 and Saturday, June 13.

The event’s organizer, Joe Pally, explained how the initiative came about.

“I was really moved to do something to help our suffering Bay Ridge businesses,” he said. “They and our neighbors have been following social distancing guidelines for many weeks now, and have gotten very good at it. This was a very loosely organized effort, to remind everyone in the neighborhood that these businesses are open and can use our patronage.”

More 50 local businesses were eager to be tagged in the Facebook event. Pally hopes the event gives the businesses some help while locals can enjoy the outdoors.

“It’s meant to literally boost business for all those suffering entrepreneurs,” he said. “And what it amounts to is a reminder to our neighbors, that hey, these places are still here, they’re open for business and this is still a free country.”

However, some were concerned by the amount of people not practicing social distancing.

“Maybe 10-20% of those gatherings had masks on,” said local Tyler Wayne Petty. “I had to walk in the street, and when I went into the store, people weren’t abiding by the 6-feet rule. If I said something politely about someone being inside 6 feet from me. I was looked at like I was crazy. Being that I work at a hospital, these last few months have been hard and I have seen a lot, but I’m starting to believe the majority of the public thinks this isn’t real.”

Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann discussed the situation.

“I have spoken to many struggling owners frustrated by unclear guidance on reopening and feel moving the reopening timeline forward may force many to close,” she said. “Our small businesses are truly cherished by our community.”

However, she acknowledged the fears locals have of getting sick.

“This Saturday’s event attracted many who sought to be supportive with, unfortunately, many not adhering to important social distancing regulations designed to keep us all safe,” she said. “This is reflected in a rise in 311 calls from residents rightfully very concerned about possible health implications.

“Moving forward, I appreciate the opportunity to strongly remind all that we are still in midst of this terrible pandemic and encourage everyone to abide by the guidance rules and regulations set forth by the Governor’s office – please wear a face covering and practice social distancing to reduce asymptomatic spread.”

In the “Boost Bay Ridge” flyer, it stresses that people should wear masks and practice social distancing.

Councilmember Justin Brannan discussed the stress and hardships Bay Ridge has endured.

“Our local businesses are struggling, hanging on by their fingernails,” he said. “They need customers.  And, as the weather gets warmer, people are getting restless. Since the curve was flattened, guidance from the city hasn’t been great and enforcement has been arbitrary at best. But this virus is still very much a real thing.

“At the same time, we must recognize expecting everyone to avoid all human contact indefinitely is just not realistic. We must balance safety with people’s need to reopen their businesses.”

“I don’t blame small businesses for doing all they can to keep their doors open,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “Now that we’ve bent the curve, we need to do all we can to provide support while maintaining social distancing and making sure to wear masks so that cases don’t go back up and our shared sacrifice was for nothing.”

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