By Roger Paradiso
Not long ago, the New York Daily News reported that Governor Cuomo had extended the statewide moratorium on evictions through the end of August, and promised that New Yorkers won’t get booted from their homes or businesses for being unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
The moratorium, which was set to expire June 20th, will now remain in effect until August 20th.
Politicians love to kick the can down the road. I remember as a kid we used to play kick the can as we were walking home from school. It’s a lost art, except for politicians who love to kick the “figurative” can down the road.
Jim Drougas, owner of Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books on Carmine Street, sent me an email: “While Cuomo and De Blasio contend for who is in charge of this or that, there needs to be deep regard for our survival in the immediate future.”
Jim went into the store for several days during the “opening.” He decided to stay closed. There were no tourists, who used to come to the store because it has an awesome collection of out of print books ranging from Robert Blake to Bob Dylan. And his regulars were hesitant to come out in the Covid world. He told me the majority of people coming into the store were without masks. He would tell them they had to wear them, but they didn’t want to hear that. So, Jim closed the store for now. Not worth the health risks in this climate.
What is it with the masks? Somebody told me not wearing them was considered a gesture against tyranny. I wear a mask. Wouldn’t leave home without it. And I don’t feel like it’s a symbol of anything but trying to stop the spread of this pandemic in the way the CDC doctors advise.
The moratorium is just around the corner. It’s almost August 20th. The story about this moratorium is survival. It is the executioner’s song. On that day in August, evictions can begin. I don’t know any small businessperson or residential tenant who has sufficient cash in reserve to pay back-rent which could be for four or five months. Do you know anyone with 50-100k in their pockets?
I pass by Jamal’s place on my walking tour of the shop owners I’ve been in touch with during the last five months. Jamal says he does not have a big reserve, so paying back-rent will be a deal breaker for him and his Village Music Store on Bleecker Street.
“Most of us know it’s a real issue and it’s too overwhelming for individuals and businesses,” said Jamal. “It’s just very hard for small businesses to deal with such a real disaster like this COVID-19, and the riots, looting etc. I’ve worked in my neighborhood for 32 years and I lived through changes… In my own opinion, we must save small businesses.” Jamal comes into his store every day. There are few customers.
It feels like a war zone. Like we’ve been invaded by hostile forces who bomb out our infrastructure. Only this is an “invisible” invader, a virus, and instead of destroying our infrastructure, this invader has bombed out our stores and city. Business is crumbling, but not buildings yet.
Do we have a national plan which will reconstruct our failing economy? No, we have a White House which cannot get a grip on the facts about this virus even though the death count will have exceeded 150,000 by the time you read this story. The enemy has invaded the southern and western states. Yes, those states are going through what New York went through last March and April. Without a national plan we are spinning our wheels.
As I walk through the ravaged Village, with store fronts boarded up and makeshift street cafés popping up all over the area, I wonder what the plan is. Does anybody know? Are we to keep kicking the can down the road, with these PPP plans and SBA loans that only offer a band-aid to a massive wound?
I heard this news report the other day: corruption in the PPP; millions and millions of dollars went to the wrong companies—who didn’t need all that money. It didn’t go to the mom-and-pop shops that needed every bit of that money.
The New York Times wrote that 20 of the largest hospitals received $5 billion in Care’s Act funds while smaller community hospitals struggle to stay open. Do the wealthy inherit the earth and the booty loot Benjamins of the Care’s Act?
I get a text from Nick the Greek. Nick loves movie theaters and he owns three of them. The one in the Village is a gem. It’s the oldest continuously running “art” theater in Manhattan, and it is in trouble. But Nick vows he will never let it fail. I read Nick’s text as I walk the abandoned streets of Greenwich Village. “No doubt, closing movie theaters for several months was the right thing to do. Small mom-and-pop businesses can think outside of the box and can re-open safely for our patrons within government guidelines. Every week we remain closed going forward, we are facing a permanent shut down.”
It’s starting to rain, and I pop into one of my favorite places, the Half Pint (where I filmed Searching for Camelot), which is searching for a home in this pandemic without movie theaters. I ask to speak to Tory. I am told she is not in today. I place a take-out order for my son Anthony who is in the car helping me out. I also order a beer for George Capsis, the publisher of this paper. I’m heading over to his house to discuss my article. As I look around the Half Pint, I see they have been regulated to remove all tables and chairs. It looks like a home that has lost its owners, but Tory and her partners are hanging in, trying to figure out what is going on, as she said to me in a text:
“It`s like being on a racetrack with a speed limit,
Cops everywhere issuing tickets,
Zombies chasing you,
And you have a car with three wheels,
While you still pay full price…….”
I drop a donation into the tip cup and leave, taking another look at the misty Half Pint at the corner of Thompson and West 3rd Streets as I walk through the rain.
“The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)…has been a direct target of potential fraud to the tune of $126 million,” claimed Calvin Shivers, of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In my 26 years on this committee, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Senator Feinstein said, “…Consumers have lost nearly $48 million due to coronavirus-related fraud as of June 7th, including scams for test kits, virus cures and treatments, price gouging, hoarding and unemployment fraud. I wonder if it’s worth continuing,” Feinstein said. “How do you stop this fraud?” (newsweek.com.)
As Anthony drives me to George’s office on Charles Street I hear this sad news on CBS radio: “The U.S. has surpassed four million cases with over 145,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
I look over my USA news popping up on my cell phone: “The U.S. insurance industry has been largely denying claims for losses caused by coronavirus-driven lockdowns from businesses-interruption policies, saying that pandemics are excluded.”
“We believe the industry does have wherewithal to take risk here,” said Maurice Greenberg. He said Chubb (the biggest insurance company) is talking to lawmakers, brokers, and other insurers about its plan.”
Now that’s a plan that could work. Stop kicking the can Mr. President, Governor Cuomo, and Mayor de Blasio.
I look at the black rain-slicked street called Bleecker, and the resilient people opening up and the brave customers. We know there are no cans to kick anymore. So, what about the Chubb plan? I want a moratorium on everything except the Chubb plan. Stop kicking the cans that aren’t there anymore.