Port Times Record

The sign hung above the Roger’s Friage ice cream and candy shop May 26 was spray painted by an unknown person the day after it was hung. Photo by Roger Rutherford

A new banner was installed above Roger’s Frigate candy and ice cream shop in Port Jeff Tuesday, May 26. While previous politically minded banners above the candy shop expressed support for President Donald Trump (R), the latest one now reads “Impeach Cuomo.” 

A woman that Rutherford said had trespassed on the property to deface the banner. Photo by Roger Rutherford

Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate, reiterated he has no control over signs being put up because longtime Port Jefferson shop owner George Wallis owns the building. Rutherford did however support Wallis’ right to free speech. 

“He has a strong belief in protesting Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his reopening plan,” the general manager said. “George is frustrated that he can’t reopen and believes that he can run business safely.”

Sometime around midday Wednesday, May 27, a person reportedly trespassed upstairs on the frigate’s property and defaced the banner with spray paint. Rutherford said the banner was temporarily removed, but was back up by the end of the day Wednesday.

“The police were called and they are currently looking for this woman who vandalized our property,” Rutherford said.

Back in February, Wallis installed a pro-Trump banner above of the frigate. Village officials said that it violated village code and fined the business owner $2,000 a day for the time it had not been taken down. 

Mayor Margot Garant said the banner is an illegal sign. 

“The sign was just put up yesterday late afternoon and our legal department is handling the situation,” she said.

Steam Room Receives Distancing Complaints Memorial Day Weekend

The East Broadway seafood restaurant was on the receiving end of a social distancing complaint earlier this week, with Suffolk County police responded to the 311 call. George Wallis is also the owner of the restaurant space. 

Rutherford didn’t know the nature of the call but said the complaint was the result of the outside dining on the restaurant’s premises. 

“They thought they were being safe by having tables six to 10 feet apart,” he said. 

Multiple posts to social media included pictures of the Steam Room’s dining area, which is enclosed but exposed to the outside, packed with sit down diners Memorial Day weekend, despite current mandates that all restaurants be restricted to takeout or pickup operations.

SCPD warned the restaurant owners that they couldn’t operate outside dining and said it could face further fines and penalties if it continued, according to Rutherford. 

Suffolk County Police confirmed the restaurant was visited a total of three times Sunday and Monday for noncompliance complaints. The restaurant removed seating after the first complaint to comply with the New York on PAUSE order, police said. They found the restaurant to be in compliance the second and third time they were called.

Garant was adamant restaurants needed to comply with the PAUSE order.

“Restaurants cannot have outside dining,” the mayor said. “We are not in Phase 3 yet, they can only do take-out [at this time] … I think what happened was unfortunate.”

The Mayor also added that the village and the Business Improvement District have given owners specific guidelines on what they’re able to do during this time. 

“We want them to operate responsibly, but we have to continue to follow these mandates if we want to get to the other side and stay open,” she said.

It was a muggy Saturday morning at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, May 23. Across lawns dotted with inset grave markers, small flags were listless in the stagnant air. There, while COVID-19 has meant many could not participate in the large, standout flag planting ceremonies normally seen the weekend before Memorial Day, families, friends, Boy Scouts and active service members still found ways to honor those who are buried there.

Adam Morris, bottom right, helps his family and friends, clockwise from bottom, Bailee Morris, Skye Sherrard and Jocelynn Morris plant flags. Photo Kyle Barr

Riverhead residents Bill Merker and his son Zach visited the grave of Glen “Doc” Moody Jr., an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who had passed away April 8. His grave was still packed with fresh dirt and had not yet even received the stone marking his name on his grave. 

“He was a very big inspiration for us,” said the younger Merker, a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets program who said Moody would teach them about medical procedures.

Moody, of Miller Place, had been featured in a previous article in TBR News Media papers. The marine veteran had been active helping his fellow veterans adjust to life outside the military and had been active with the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, which helps provide service and therapy dogs to veterans. Moody, who passed at the age of 39, had his own service dog, a red fox Labrador named Independence, who never left his side.

Scattered around the park were others helping to plant flags. Ray Langert, one of the groundskeepers at the cemetery, helped one group of folks looking to plant flags at veterans’ graves. 

Adam and Melora Morris, of Mount Sinai, joined with their children and friends to come out to Washington Memorial to plant flags. They said while they regularly attend the flag planting ceremonies at Calverton National Cemetery, federal orders to ban large gatherings at the cemeteries put a squash to those plans. 

Ray Langert, who works at Washington Memorial Cemetery, looks over his parent’s grave. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was a sentiment shared all across the North Shore with people trying to offer memorials to those passed. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who had petitioned the federal government to allow the large-scale flag planting events at places like Calverton, still offered condolences and remarks. Bellone also thanked the health care and essential employees continuing to work through the Memorial Day weekend.

“This day is unlike any other we have seen in modern times,” Bellone said. “We could not gather the way we normally do … But we did come together today to recognize, make sure we are honoring those really precious individuals in our community who have served and sacrificed.”

Some still managed to go to the Calverton cemetery to offer what services they could. Members of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 went down that Saturday morning to place flags and host small services. 

On Memorial Day, May 25, the VFW hosted a small ceremony in the park behind Tilda’s Bakery in Rocky Point. In Sound Beach, community leaders placed a wreath at their own vets memorial on New York Avenue.

Despite restrictions and the need for distancing, it’s still hard to estimate how positive the impact is in memorializing those who’ve passed. Langert’s own father and mother, Robert and Elsie, are buried in the mausoleum on the grounds of the Washington Memorial Cemetery. Robert was a U.S. Army veteran who passed in 2005. The Morris family and friends offered to place a flag by his father’s stone in the mausoleum. 

“He would have loved to see that,” Langert said, sitting in his lawnmower’s seat with a smile. “He would have been ecstatic.”

Suffolk County has created a new website to connect jobless residents with shops that need workers.

And so it begins.

The Suffolk County economy, stalled for over two months as Long Island tried to contain the spread of a deadly virus, has restarted, entering Phase One of a gradual reopening process today.

Calling the reopening a “new beginning,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters that the county was “up to the test in every way imaginable.”

To bring employers and employees together, Bellone announced the start of a virtual career and talent portal that is part of the Department of Labor. The portal will link job seekers with Suffolk County businesses that need workers.

Bellone called the site a “one stop shop” that will do everything virtually, enabling employees to see job postings in real time. Veterans will get first priority for these jobs, as the county wants to honor those who have served the nation with a 24-hour hold on these postings. Residents can access the site through SCNYForward.info.

Amid the opening, the viral numbers continued to move in a positive direction for the county.

Hospitalizations declined by 30 to 305 as of May 25. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit also declined by 12 to 94, which is the first time since March that the number of people in the ICU with COVID-19 was below 100.

Hospital capacity remained well below 70 percent, with 65 percent of beds available in hospitals and 60 percent available in the ICU.

In the last day, nine people have left the hospital to continue their rehabilitation and recovery at home.

The virus continues to claim the lives of residents. In the last day, 10 people died from complications related to the coronavirus as the number of people who died from COVID-19 in Suffolk has reached 1,861.

On the first day of reopening, the county executive said he hadn’t had any negative reports about people violating any ongoing restrictions on businesses or social distancing rules.

With contact tracers in place and the county monitoring public health, Bellone didn’t anticipate the county backsliding into another version of New York Pause.

The contact tracers should “give us the ability to target our response,” the county executive said, “rather than what we had to do at the beginning of the outbreak.”

Bellone said the county had learned important lessons on the other side of the viral peak, which should put it in a solid position to monitor any pockets of positive tests.

“I’m certain we are going to do this safely as we open up,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone urged the federal government to invest in infrastructure projects on Long Island, including a sewer project.

The county has one of the largest infrastructure projects for sewers in the region in decades, Bellone said.

“With federal investment in infrastructure, we would create jobs, boost our economy, improve water quality, a win-win for everybody,” Bellone said in a statement.

Stock photo

With Suffolk County expected to hit the final two metrics to enter Phase 1 of an economic reopening, businesses including construction, manufacturing and curb side retail, will open tomorrow.

One of the final seven metrics the county needed to reach was the hiring and training of contact tracers, who can help follow the link between positive testing among residents and the people those with the virus interacted with while they were infectious.

The county is training 1,368 employees in contact tracing, and will have more than enough contact tracers, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said, which will allow officials to call in additional people, even if it’s for a short time, to handle any sudden increase in positive tests.

“Everybody is anxious to get this going,” Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. The county needs to “get the economy reopened again.”

The county executive described the contact tracing work as a “Herculean task,” which will require buy in from residents.

Bellone planned to speak with community-based organizations to make a point to address the issue of supporting contact tracers and encouraging residents who test positive to understand the public health role these people are playing in preventing the spread of the virus. The county executive said he has had conversations with businesses as well about supporting the contact tracing effort.

Bellone will be asking other community leaders to “reach out to their network to spread that word even further,” he said. “We are putting that ask to them, to reach out to their networks to spread the word about contact tracing for people to cooperate.”

In some homes, where isolation or quarantine may not be possible after a positive COVID-19 test, Bellone said the county planned to provide separate housing where those infected with the virus could recover until they are no longer infectious.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said these counties that are starting to reopen need to keep on top of any kind of COVID-19 resurgence.

“I said to the county executives, watch the numbers, when you see a cluster of cases, jump on it,” Cuomo said. “Those regional control groups have to be disciplined.”

With some retail businesses opening for curbside as a part of Phase 1 reopening on Long Island tomorrow, the police and county officials are supportive of creative ways to use what might be limited curb space for shoppers.

“We will work with the Police Department and their partners and enforcement teams to coordinate” on efforts to restart businesses, he said. “People understand, in an unprecedented situation, [that the county is] trying to give businesses that need to reopen the ability to do that. To the extent we can assist businesses doing curb side retail in creative ways, we would be supportive of that.”

While Bellone awaits word from Cuomo on his request for an executive order supporting a 45-day suspension of temporary property tax relief, he did receive word from the governor’s office that pushes the tax collection back 21 days.

“That takes the pressure off any immediate issues,” Bellone said. Residents to not need to sign a form attesting to the hardship created by the pandemic to receive that 21-day extension.

As for the viral numbers, an additional 126 people tested positive in the last day for the virus.

The number of people in the hospitalized declined by 8 to 335 as of May 24 The number of people in Intensive Care Units fell by five to 106.

Hospital beds are at 64 percent capacity, with 59 percent capacity in the ICU.

Over the last day, an additional 20 people left the hospital after a battle with the coronavirus.

At the same time, 11 people died from complications related to the virus, raising the total killed in Suffolk County to 1,851.

In terms of the next phase of reopening, which could start as late as June 10, Bellone said Governor Cuomo has spoken about the possibility of a shorter duration between phases.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Bellone said. “Everything about this is new.”

The county will continually monitor the metrics and will look for any changes or spikes in those numbers.

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

After the pandemic caused New York state and Long Island to shutter businesses for months, Long Island moved within two days of entering phase one of reopening.

Hospitalizations continued to fall, with the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients dropping 31 to 343 in the period ending on May 23rd, the most recent date for which the county had figures. The number of people in Intensive Care Units battling the virus also declined, by eight to 111.

In the last day, an additional 18 new cases of residents with COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

At the same time, 38 people have left the hospital in the last day, continuing their recovery at home.

An additional six people died in the last day from complications related to the virus, raising the total in Suffolk County to 1,840.

Patients with COVID represented 64 percent of total hospital bed occupancy and 61 percent of ICU bed use, well below the 70 percent required for reopening.

“We are looking forward to hitting that first phase this Wednesday,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

So far, the attendance at the newly opened beaches has been light due to the weather during the three-day weekend.

“We are determined to make sure families and kids will enjoy a summer, even in the midst of this global pandemic,” Bellone said. “We believe we can do this safely.”

Bellone was also pleased that the area was able to hold a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Legion Post in Patchogue. The ceremony, which didn’t include the typical parades and moments to honor the service men and women who died for their country, was streamed live on FaceBook.

Bellone was especially eager to recognize the fallen service men and women this year, on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“It was a pleasure to be there with all my colleagues, democrats and republicans,” Bellone said which included Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), who, is a U.S. Army Veteran and also spoke at Calverton National Cemetery. “It is a time for all of us to be reminded of the fact that what unites us is so much more important than petty disagreements.”

Bellone added that, “we are all Americans and we are all in this together.”

Separately, as the county and Long Island prepare to enter Phase One of a reopening plan, officials cautioned residents to continue to practice social distancing and to wear masks when they can’t remain at least six feet away from others.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said he was in his office today, on Memorial Day, to continue to prepare enforcement plans for the area.

“I’m not certain how people are going to react,” Cameron said on the call with reporters. “I hope they are going to react with good judgment. We are prepared to act if necessary.”

Cameron added that the police department has been successful in educating people and asking for their compliance. He said officers have been able to convince residents and business owners to continue to follow guidelines that protect public health.

“If necessary, we will move to an enforcement phase,” Cameron said. The SCPD has issued summonses to a few businesses and to individuals.

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Reacting to a stirring front page of the New York Times that included the names of people felled by COVID-19 the day before Memorial Day, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) took stock of all the county has lost, and protected.

The New York Times is a “reminder, when you look at it, of the fact that these are not just statistics we are reporting every day,” Bellone said on his daily call with reporters. The losses families, friends and caretakers have felt these losses keenly each day, causing an untold impact on the county, the state and the country.

Amid all the death and loss, Bellone said he takes comfort in the way Long Islanders have abided by social distancing and face covering restrictions, which has kept the unimaginably high death toll in the county — which increased another 12 to 1,834 over the last day — from being even higher.

“Thousands of people are alive today because of the extraordinary efforts” of everyone from first responders to business owners who have closed up their shops to reduce the spread of the virus.

Bellone urged residents to “continue to be smart.”

Bellone cited an incident in Patchogue at Dublin Deck on Friday night that included numerous videos of people crowding around a bar in clear violation of social distancing rules.

The owners of Dublin Deck have apologized on their Facebook page, saying said they had invited people in because of the rain. They acknowledged they were wrong and that it will not happen again.

“What we saw in those videos is unacceptable and not smart,” Bellone said. “Police are aware of that and will continue to follow up.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart explained that the owners were vocal and apologetic and that 85 precent of the patrons had cleared out by the time the police arrived. An officer stayed at the location until everybody had cleared and responded at other times to make sure it was in compliance.

Dublin Deck posted an apology to its social media site and indicated “there are no excuses when it comes to public safety.”

As for the viral figures in the county, the number of people who tested positive in the county in the last day were 162, bringing the total to 38,964. That figure excludes the 12,272 who tested positive on an antibody test.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by 35 through May 22 to 374. That is the first time since Marcy 27 that total hospitalizations were below 400.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by six to 119.

With 3,031 total hospital beds, the number of available beds was 1,041, which keeps the county on track to start opening on Wednesday. Similarly, with 230 ICU beds available from a total of 595, the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients is below the 70 percent maximum.

Over the last day, 45 people have been discharged from the hospital.

The county executive said four sites would be reopening for residents to purchase green key cards. The cost of the cards is $30 and they are valid for three years. The sites are at the east booth at Smith Point Park, at Indian Island County Park in Riverheads, at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown and at Sears Bellows County Park at Hampton Bays.

Bellone urged residents to practice social distancing at these sites and to wear face coverings.

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The lot north of Arden Place is being studied to see if it can be modified to increase the number of stalls. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though the building that once housed the Gap in Port Jefferson remains an empty shell, village officials say they want to look at the surrounding parking lot to see if better use can be made of the space.

The current lot right off of Arden Place and East Broadway curves and ducks behind many prominent storefronts, and on the busy days is one of the first lots filled come peak business time.

The village voted unanimously to hire Hauppauge-based VHB Engineering for $18,700 to study the lot as well as create conceptual plans for a “multi-deck” parking structure.

Though the difficulties of creating anything in that lot are easily apparent. 

“The Gap lot is not a square box, it’s a very unusual layout,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “The property has so many constraints, so it’s going to be difficult.”

In case of a kind of parking garage, Garant said the scope of the work will reveal whether or not the space could maintain a structure based on its unusual shape, even something as high as two levels.

“We can’t rule that out until we know that,” she said. “Then I get to cross that off my list, and then we can look at reconfiguring that lot in place and just see if reconfiguring it surface only can I gain [more] spots.”

Trustee Bruce Miller, who in the past has opposed any mention of multi-level parking structures, again shared his disapproval.

“I’m on the record [that] I’m against any kind of multi level parking garage,” he said.

Other Ongoing Initiatives in Port Jeff

• Port Jeff officials approved accepting the bid of Long Island-based D&B Engineering to replace and repair the retaining walls both at East Beach and along Highland Boulevard for a cost of $41,500.

• Port Jefferson completed an $8,000 project for drainage installations in Upper Port in anticipation of the installation of Station Street, which would connect Main Street and Oakland Ave to avoid the parking lot. That project starting up depends on when current slated apartments by Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland, for “affordable” apartments in what was once the Bada Bing structure.

• The village is not giving up hope of having fireworks this year, but whether it will take place July 4, as normal, or at a later date is to be determined. At its May 18 meeting the village voted to enter into agreement with Fireworks by Grucci for a total of $20,000. While the board does not know if the village will do its usual beach display the 4th of July, trustees like Bruce D’Abramo pointed out current limitations on gatherings would mean there likely won’t be a show two months from now unless something changes. The board reserved the ability to host a fireworks show sometime this year, with village attorney Brian Egan saying their permits would likely allow it.

• The village posted a notice to its website Sunday, May 17 hastily sharing the laws regarding selling alcohol outside windows, as some shops were doing that weekend. Takeaway cocktails must be in an enclosed container, not have a straw inside the cup and must come with food to comply with New York State law. Garant asked police 6th precinct for two officers to be in the village to enforce guidelines next weekend. The mayor added she has spoken with some businesses such as Old Field and Ruvo East or in Chandler Square for shared outdoor dining. She added the village would waive all outdoor dining fees except for the application fee.

Planes from the 106 National Guard Rescue Wing flew over St. Charles and other local hopsitals May 16. Another flyover from the Bayport Aerodrome Society is planned for Memorial Day. Photo by Brendan Duffy

After 66 days stuck in New York Pause, Long Island is expecting to start phase one of its economic reopening on Wednesday.

“If we continue on this track, and we believe that we will, we are looking to reopen Long Island” on Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That is great news.”

Phase One includes construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (which is limited to curbside or in-store pick up or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Bellone urged residents to continue to wear face coverings when they are indoors or when they are around other people and can’t maintain a reliable six feet of social distancing. He also acknowledged that the reopening of the camping reservation web site did not go as planned last night, when it reopened at 7 p.m.

The site crashed amid a high demand which was built up by the long layoff from recreational and leisure activities.

Bellone expects to get the site up and running this week and indicated he would provide plenty of notice for when it is reopening so that people can book their reservations for periods starting after July 15.

This morning, Bellone joined residents at Babylon cemetery, who came out to place thousands of flags at the graves of veterans across the county.

Volunteers placed flags at the graves of former service men and women, thanking veterans across the generations and centuries who are all “part of this great American story that gives us and has given us our freedom,” Bellone said.

As for the COVID-19 update, the number of residents who tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours was 130, which brings the total to 38,802. That doesn’t include the over 12,000 who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

As of May 21, the number of hospitalizations from the virus declined by 16 to 409, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit declined by six to 125.

Bed capacity fell below 70 percent usage, with 993 beds available out of a total of 3,035 and 212 ICU beds available out of a total of 547.

Over the last day, 43 people left the hospital. An additional eight residents from the county died from complications related to COVID-19, which raises the terrible death toll to the virus to 1,822.

To honor the veterans and health care heroes, the Bayport Aerodrome Society, which is the last remaining public grass airfield on Long Island, will do a flyover with eight World War II era planes on Memorial Day.

Starting at noon on Monday in Brookhaven, the planes will fly over Long Island Community Hospital, Mather, St. Charles, Stony Brook, St. Catherine’s, Huntington Hospital, and Good Samaritan. The planes will end their flight over South Side Hospital in Bayshore.

Three of the pilots are veterans.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event Feb. 9 at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. Photo by Kevin Redding

While jails and prisons across the country have seen a rise in COVID-19 in their facilities, the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities in Riverhead and Yaphank have seen significantly lower cases. Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) credits early usage of face covering, frequent sanitation and social distancing practices. 

To date, only one inmate has contracted COVID-19 while at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility and one inmate entered the jail already carrying the virus. The average daily inmate population is 515. Less than 2 percent, or 21 correctional staff out of 858 has come down with coronavirus.  

The sheriff also reported four deputies out of 252 contracted the virus and only one civilian employee of 130 was confirmed with COVID-19. They only have nine coronavirus cases of officers. Currently, the facilities have no COVID-19 positives. 

Toulon said that since everyone is required to wear face coverings and that social distancing is enforced throughout the facilities, coronavirus hasn’t spread inside the two jails like it has elsewhere. He added it “should serve as an example” for the general public that COVID-19 can be controlled by following the advice of public health officials.  

“I think if more people knew how we have controlled the spread of COVID-19 inside the jails by wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance from others, that people would understand that they do have some control if they take personal responsibility,” he said. “The mixed messages have put too many people in danger, led to further spread of the virus, and it has caused immeasurable damage to the economy.”  

In April, a state court denied the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County’s request to free around 120 inmates over coronavirus fears. The State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen claimed the decision was, in part, because of the jail’s success in halting the spread of the virus. The legal aid society was, however, successful in securing release of many other inmates held on noncriminal parole violations. 

The numbers are significant, especially compared to other jails in New York. The New York Times reported May 20 that 1,259 of New York City’s 9,680 correction officers and their supervisors have caught the virus, while at least six have died. To note, however, there are thousands more inmates in city jails compared to Suffolk County’s facilities.

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

As Long Island continues to take steps toward reopening and some sense of normalcy, municipalities are aiming to help small businesses and their financial futures. The Town of Brookhaven has created a post-COVID-19 task force for economic recovery in an effort to revitalize the downtown areas and help small businesses affected by the pandemic, many of which are receiving no income at all during this time.

The Small Business Recovery Task Force is made up of business owners, chamber of commerce representatives, business experts and other officials. 

Barbara Ransome, executive director of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the task force gives them the opportunity to come together and be on the same page on how to help these small businesses. 

“We all have similar concerns and it’s important that we rally together and have a unified plan,” she said. 

The task force has continued to comply with feedback from local business owners. A complaint they have brought up is the state’s process of phasing in business reopenings.

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures.”

— Barbara Ransome

Ransome said the state’s plan favors big box stores. While large retailers like Target and Walmart have been able to stay open, smaller merchants, who sell many of the same products, have been forced to close. =

“Those businesses don’t have that ability right now [to reopen],” she said. 

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and the Suffolk County Supervisors’ Association has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) calling on him to come up with a consistent way of judging businesses. 

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures,” she said. 

The group has also called on elected officials to help with insurance coverage issues.

Educating business owners, merchants and customers on social distancing and other best practices is another area the task force is focusing on. 

“It’s all our responsibility to make sure we are on the same page,” said Charlie Lefkowitz, the president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce,. 

One idea they’ve proposed is creating a public service announcement in coordination with the town. Lefkowitz said it would inform the public on safety measures, social distancing compliance and other information. They would also use it as an opportunity to send out a positive message of unity. 

“The hardest thing we will have to figure out is how we are going to social distance,” he said. “We are trying to help these main street and small businesses.”

In addition, the task force is looking at ways to ease the reopening process for owners. Capacity and the number of customers a business can serve could play a huge role in how they do so, given the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

Lefkowitz said he has been working with the town officials on a way to allow business owners to temporarily extend their store space either by permits, tweaking town code or drafting new legislation. 

“Some businesses might be able to use walkways and put merchandise outside, or they could set up a tent outside in the parking lot,” he said. 

The chamber of commerce president has a draft legislation proposal that would increase the floor area ratio of a business, which would help in making more selling space. 

Lefkowitz said restaurants were just one type of business that could benefit from increase in space. 

“They can be more efficient with indoor and outdoor space,” he said. “Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.” 

Long Island has taken steps toward reaching Phase 1 of Cuomo’s New York Forward plan for reopening its economy, meeting five of seven benchmarks required by the state. The governor’s plan to reopen consists of four phases which include different categories. Restaurants are in Phase 3. 

“Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.”

— Charlie Lefkowitz

Michael Ardolino, a past president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said businesses will be facing different challenges when they reopen. 

“How will places like beauty salons and barbershops fare when everyone is in close proximity to each other?” he said. “These owners will want to be able to get their business going.”

Ardolino said he could envision a scenario where those types of businesses take a certain number of customers by appointment only.  

“We will continue to monitor all businesses and may have to plan for what might be a new business climate,” he said.  

Owners hope business reopens sooner rather than later, with summer close by. 

“As the warmer weather gets closer it will be challenging to keep people at bay,” Ransome said. “We have to continue to push government leaders, need to continue to make these phases and hit these benchmarks so we can reopen. We don’t want to be going backward instead of going forward.”