***This story was updated on May 15 at 3 p.m. to add more information***
Michael Corleone has not been paying rent for Kayo Boxing in West Hempstead since New York’s economy shut down at the end of March, and now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Long Island’s stay-at-home order has been extended through May 28, he will continue to lose income.
“Personally, I do not feel that this order is proper,” Corleone, of Franklin Square, said. “I understand the problem, but how can our civilization be able to stand on its own unless we get back to work?”
If his business stays closed, he explained, he will not be able to bill the members of his kickboxing gym for classes, and if he cannot bill his clients, he cannot pay rent.
Some students, he added, need the classes for therapeutic reasons — many, he said, are on the autism spectrum, and one student was shot in the head and has been training with Corleone for the past year.
“I cannot wait to get back to work,” he said. “I was raised very old school, therefore that means I am a worker. I love to work, and look forward to being able to open my gym.”
In his announcement on May 14, Cuomo said Long Island was not yet ready to re-open, but five other regions in New York were — including the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North Country and Central New York.
"The others," the governor wrote, "can be UN-PAUSED the moment they hit their benchmarks."
In order to reopen, a region must meet a set of stringent guidelines, including:
Long Island currently meets five of the seven criteria. It falls short on two — 14-day decline in hospital deaths and new hospitalizations under 2 per 100,000 — and like all other regions in the state, it is expected to have a sufficient number of contact tracers in place by the time it opens.
Elmont Chamber of Commerce President Paul Sapienza said he understood Cuomo’s decision, calling it a “necessary evil.”
The Island continues to have a large number of coronavirus cases, he explained, and he does not want those numbers to increase when the economy reopens. As of May 13, Elmont had 1,230 positive coronavirus cases, according to data from the Nassau County Department of Health — one of the highest figures in the entire county.
“As bad as it is for us to stay closed, it would be much worse for us to get a resurgence,” Sapienza, who owns Sapienza Bake Shop on Hempstead Turnpike, noted. “If [staying closed] is what we have to do to keep people alive, then we have to do it” because “a dead customer is no good.”
For regions that meet the state's criteria, reopening is to begin cautiously, the governor said, and will play out over the coming weeks in four stages:
Phase One: Construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, select retail for curbside pickup only, and agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing.
Phase Three: Restaurants and food services, beyond takeout and delivery.
Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.
The state, Cuomo said, has created a New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board to help guide the reopening process.
In the meantime, Franklin Square Chamber President Lisa DelliPizzi said she will continue to post information about unemployment, grants and federal programs designed to help small business owners. “Anything we can do to promote small businesses, we’ll do,” she said. “I can just hope that [the owners] hang in there a little longer.”