Cuomo warns scofflaw schools, seeks Chainsmokers gig fine
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that New York would seek $20,000 in fines against the promoters who organized a July concert by The Chainsmokers that saw widespread violations of social distancing rules.
The Democrat also threatened to take away state funding from schools in coronavirus hot spots that are ignoring orders to shut their doors, saying their defiance was endangering public health.
“This is a last and final warning,” Cuomo said.
The governor’s office said the promoter of The Chainsmokers concert, In the Know Experiences, violated public health law at the Southampton event by holding a nonessential gathering and failing to enforce rules requiring people to wear masks if they couldn’t stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Crowds gathered near the end of the concert despite the presence of private security and town police officers.
Cuomo called the concert, attended by more than 2,150 people, “an egregious violation” of the rules. The concert organizers declined comment through their promotion company.
Cuomo said he was also temporarily revoking the ability of the Town of Southampton to issue permits for similar events without state approval.
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town has already been asking the state to weigh in on special event permits, but said he didn’t know about Cuomo’s decision until he announced it Wednesday.
Schneiderman said “it’s a standard no other town has to go through.”
Cuomo aides told the town’s attorneys Wednesday afternoon that the town made errors in permitting the event, but did not share what those errors were or which events need state approval, Schneiderman said.
“We followed the rule when we issued the permit and the state may feel otherwise,” he said. “It’s challenging when an event organizer doesn’t follow the rules.”
“If we made a mistake let us know what it is and give us a chance to fix it,” he added.
The governor, who has for weeks lamented the failure of some local governments to enforce coronavirus restrictions, also said Wednesday that the state would send a letter to local governments warning that they would lose state funding if they didn’t enforce limits on public gatherings and schools.
The governor recently ordered schools in designated cluster zones to switch to remote learning for at least 14 days to help stop the virus from spreading. Cuomo said the letter would go to New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley.
Cuomo didn’t immediately say exactly how much money could would be withheld or name schools that were breaking the rules.
The action came after some news organizations, including Gothamist, reported on Jewish religious schools staying open in defiance of the rules in some parts of Brooklyn.
“I guarantee if a yeshiva gets closed down and they’re not going to get state funding, you’re going to see compliance,” Cuomo said.
The Orange County Health Department said it issued cease-and-desist notices Tuesday at three schools that had remained open around the Orthodox Jewish town of Palm Tree, one that bused children and two that failed to implement mask and social distancing protocols, according to a county spokesperson.
The governor said the state has wide discretion to withhold state aid.
“We have the ability to impound all funds from a locality,” Cuomo said. “All of the funding. Which is significant. How much would we penalize them? It depends and it would be in our discretion. Because we could impound all funds.”
He urged local governments to get serious about enforcement.
“They have the personnel, they just have to be willing to do it,” he said.
___ Associated Press Writer Michael Hill contributed reporting.