In “Readers Write: Why is Great Neck a hotspot for Covid-19,” (Sept. 25, 2020), the author cites an uptick in COVID cases in Great Neck, asserting that it is terribly frightening and frustrating for the residents of the Village, and he calls for an investigation.
I share the author’s fear and frustration.
My fear, however, was the catalyst six months ago in March for me as mayor to act and act expediently.
In Great Neck News’ cover story Oct. 2 about Great Neck residents displeased with a lack of masks, reporter Robert Pelaez advances the opinions and the agenda of the oft-quoted residents who seem to think that COVID-19 is political.
The fact is COVID-19 does not discriminate. It infects and, unfortunately, takes the lives of many without any regard for race, creed, religion, or political agenda.
Here are the facts:
As mayor of The Village of Great Neck, I expeditiously issued a state of emergency (March 12) and enacted two mayoral emergency orders, (March 13, 16), controlling public assembly, including houses of worship (against many in opposition).
While Gov. Cuomo ordered nursing homes to receive elderly Covid-19-positive patients, causing the death of over 12,000, and gave his daily press briefings to deflect his grave errors and lack of leadership, I reached out to our residents via various media – WNBC, News 12 LI, PATV, social media, website and robocalls — to reach the maximum number of people, imploring residents to wear masks to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
On March 26, I sent a draft of Mayoral Emergency Order #3 Required Coverings in Public and/or Business.
WHEREAS, the COVID-19 virus remains a public emergency, and
WHEREAS, the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and contagion is frequently spread by the emission of bodily fluids and/or other contaminants from individuals as a result of coughing, sneezing, and even ordinary breath; now, therefore
As Chief Executive of the Incorporated Village of Great Neck, and in accordance with the proclamation of a local State of Emergency which I executed on the 12th day of March, 2020, I do hereby declare and
ORDER that all persons present in places of public accommodation, as well as in all governmental, commercial and/or not-for-profit places of business within the Village of Great Neck wherein in-person presence remains permitted, shall cover their mouths and nasal passages with a covering at all times so as to reduce the expulsion of bodily fluids and/or other contaminants from each person. And it is further
ORDERED that violation of the foregoing Order shall subject the violator to the full process of law, including but not limited to arrest for a Class B Misdemeanor pursuant to NYS Executive Law section 24.5, and/or to a $1,000 fine for each day of violation, as appropriate.
This Order shall be in effect from noon on the 27th day of March, 2020, for five calendar days (i.e., until noon Wednesday, April 1, 2020) unless extended, terminated or modified by my further Order.
Signed this 26th day of March, 2020, at _____, in Great Neck, New York.
Pedram Bral, M.D., Mayor of Great Neck
Not only was my request denied, but it took the governor THREE (3) WEEKS after to enact that same order.
RE: Denial of Village of Great Neck’s Mayoral Emergency Order #3
Dear Mayor Bral:
Pursuant to Executive Order 202.5, signed March 18, 2020, the Village of Great Neck’s Mayoral Emergency Order #3 has been reviewed by the New York State Department of Health and is hereby DENIED. This denial is without prejudice to submit a new local emergency order, which satisfies all legal requirements, including but not limited to, compliance with current New York State Emergency Orders and Executive Law § 24.
Following the denial citing the governor’s March 26 Executive Order 202.5, essentially clipping the wings of local elected officials like myself, I sent two emails and a letter on March 31, 2020 asking him to strongly consider granting me permission to enact a emergency order requiring the wearing of masks in public spaces.
RE: Mayor’s response
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo:
On March 26, in an attempt to further safeguard my residents, I forwarded my draft Executive Order #3, requiring people to cover their mouths with a mask or bandana. It was denied by the New York State Department of Health citing non-compliance with legal requirements.
As a physician, I am cognizant that health-care workers on the front lines need PPE. The very goal of my executive order is twofold. In requiring protective masks for residents, the effect would be a decrease of infected people flooding the hospitals’ ERs.
While the state supersedes local government, I would like to request that you strongly consider permitting local mayors like myself to employ a more micro approach by allowing Villages to enact emergency orders that are critical to save lives.
Pedram Bral, M.D.
Mayor, Village of Great Neck
NEVER RECEIVED A RESPONSE TO MY FOLLOW-UP LETTER
It took The World Health Organization and The Centers for Disease Control till June 8 and July 14, respectively, to take a stance on mask wearing after repeatedly switching their position.
The governor, who has treated the entire LI region as one entity, has utilized an ineffective one size-fits-all-model in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing my Village intimately, in anticipation of Passover and Easter, when people were shopping for their holiday, I swiftly requested permission from the governor’s office to enact an emergency order only to be denied. I went to network news, local news and PATV to implore residents to wear masks and not gather despite the fact that it was a holiday. I did not relax the rules for on street parking typically done at holidays to accommodate parking for extended family visiting so as to not allow any members to visit outside of immediate family.
In enacting Executive Order 202.5 Governor Cuomo has prevented mayors like me from managing their villages.
Gov. Cuomo’s broad-brush approach of relaxing of restrictions regionally has not served the Village of Great Neck well. Gov. Cuomo’s loosening of restrictions on gatherings to allow up to 50 persons was ill-conceived for this Village.
Despite Gov. Cuomo’s relaxing of restrictions permitting houses of worship to conduct indoor services at a lower capacity, many area synagogues, based upon my recommendations, have taken prudent measures to have a significant portion of their services outdoor only.
The measures I have recommended have been more restrictive than those allowed by the governor and more prudent in light of activities that have the propensity for the virus to spread.
With respect to the residents quoted who seek to assign blame, shame, conduct investigations and take their elected officials to task, please know that as mayor of the Village of Great Neck I have dedicated myself wholeheartedly to the management of this pandemic in our Village by advocating and educating about social distancing, and mask wearing.
As a Village we cannot enter anyone’s home or private gathering to enforce social distancing and mask wearing. The Nassau County Fire Marshall and local police may knock on your door and investigate. As a Village we can only enforce what we see in restaurants ,businesses, and houses of worship in our Village, and we have.
We ask Go. Cuomo to lead in a logical fashion. In Executive Order 202.5 the governor prohibited local government officials from issuing executive orders. At the same time, he is critiquing local government for non-enforcement. In a conference call on Oct. 9, coordinated by the Supervisor of TONH, with Peninsula mayors, county representatives, the Nassau County Fire Marshall and a representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office , we concluded we are collectively enforcing the executive orders to the extent allowable by law.
These months have been frustrating, and an unprecedented time for all, including myself. I cannot underscore how my frustration level is exacerbated by conflicting directives from Gov. Cuomo’s office.
I will not name and shame, but I do implore residents to not attend large weddings that take place out-of-state which, while permitted, are super spreader events that then come back to our Village and increase our numbers.
We all want businesses and schools to open because it is the fabric of our community. We want to get back to a sense of normalcy.
Getting there depends on the compliance of each one of us.
Let’s be smart and not complacent.
Collectively we will get through this together.
Pedram Bral, M.D.
Mayor, Village of Great Neck