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Five Towns businesses start to reopen


As Long Island moved into Week Two of the state’s Phase One reopening, business owners who had not been operating since the coronavirus pandemic business closures began in March started to mobilize manpower and materials for the restart.

Hewlett resident Jim Vilardi, who owns the Bedford Construction Group in Valley Stream, said that while he had been working in the office since his business was shut down, it was taking time to ramp up to doing projects, because supplies have to be ordered, and some subcontractors had employees who contracted Covid-19. Waiting for municipalities to process the backlog of permits that are required is another hurdle.

“It’s a good sign things are starting to move,” Vilardi said, adding that he kept busy during the shutdown by cleaning the office, shopping for new projects, looking for partners for some of the work he has planned and obtaining the necessary approvals for a project in New York City. “I tried not to break my routine, doing what I could,” Vilardi said, “but for every step I took 10 back. But now is the time to get going. Everyone knows what it takes to keep safe.”

At Eyes on Broadway, in Hewlett, optometrist Dr. Steven Agin said he was “thrilled” to be able to reopen his now 20-year-old business, though he was less than ecstatic about the way in which businesses were classified during the shutdown.

“With the understanding of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, staying closed and the social distancing,” Agin said, “there just should have been a better evaluation of what was actually essential.”

He noted that liquor stores remained open, while his business, which serves people with prescription eyewear, was closed.

“It was absolutely out of line for us to be closed for two months,” he said. “I had a lot of people upset because of these restrictions.”

He added that he was taking every precaution, cleaning the entire store, scheduling appointments to reduce the number of people in it and stocking up on masks and hand sanitizer, as required by the reopening guidelines.

As a Herald reporter spoke with Beth Star, of the women’s apparel shop A.J. & MOS in Hewlett, a customer stopped by, thinking she could walk in and shop. Star explained to the woman that the store could still only do curbside pickup or delivery, and that in-store shopping was not yet allowed.

“I’m reaching out to my clients, and along with that, moved to a new store, but thankfully I have clients who are very supportive,” Star said. (The old A.J. & MOS store was in Woodmere.) “I changed my buying and definitely learned the streets in the Five Towns.” Star has kept in contact with customers through Instagram, she said.

The state-mandated Phase One of reopening includes construction and wholesale trade companies, along with retailers, who can offer curbside pickup only. The state’s economy will reopen by region, in three subsequent phases:

Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing.

Phase Three: Restaurant and food service beyond takeout and delivery.

Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.

If the number of deaths, hospitalizations and new Covid-19 cases remains stable or declines for two weeks, a region can move on to the next phase of reopening.

“As more regions of the state begin reopening,” Cuomo tweeted on May 26, “we are carefully monitoring health data to make sure that everything is going in the right direction. We rely on science and data to guide us — not emotion or politics.”

He emphasized that personal behavior would determine the success — or failure — of the reopening process. “The trajectory,” he said, “is decided by people.” New York City is expected to begin Phase One on June 8.

Cuomo repeated that people should wear masks in public spaces, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing.

“We want [the] economy to come roaring back,” he said.