Adina Cohen styles a customer's hair at Prestigio Wigs by Adina at 527 Central Ave. in Cedarhurst,. Adina is looking forward to welcoming customers back to her store.

One owns a jewelry store in Boro Park and the other owns a clothing store in Cedarhurst. They are closed, but they have more in common than just their friendship. Slowly but surely, their businesses are being destroyed by the aimless lockdowns that just a few days ago seemed to have no end in sight.

Another of their friends, a hairdresser in Brooklyn, joined forces with them and became a spokesperson for what quickly became the Reopen New York movement. Other retail store owners from Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Monsey joined the effort to organize stores to open their doors in defiance of the ordered shutdown of their businesses by Governor Cuomo, and in the five boroughs by Mayor de Blasio.

By Larry Gordon

What is clear here is that few businesses can go up against sometimes irrational government policies alone. But then there is this country’s recipe for success — the power of the people.

These young women, all Orthodox Jews, began a movement that had nothing to do with who they were or how they observed. Almost immediately, they received good press and the idea began to steamroll. The first day of the openings was last Sunday. Local police on Long Island and in Brooklyn tried to pressure stores to close. Two were closed by police, and two other store owners received summonses.

The following day there was a visible police presence in some of the neighborhoods, but they allowed the stores to open. “I don’t think the police want to fight the people,” Sarala Giter said. On Tuesday, a young woman in Brooklyn was arrested as she tried to open her store on 13th Avenue. About ten police officers were on the scene.

At this point, with many businesses in Long Island being given a green light to open, this battle may seem unnecessary. More likely you feel that way if you are intoxicated by the nonstop stream of fake news emanating from the liberal media that shares the objective of some political leaders — almost all Democrats — to control their constituents.

After more than two months of forced closure of businesses, voluntary and involuntary quarantines, the people are slowly but surely coming to the realization that as the days and weeks go by, this exercise of controlling the people is less about mitigating the virus and is instead morphing into an all-out political struggle between left and right on all issues.

Manhattan has 90,000 to 100,000 small businesses, most with fewer than 20 employees. Tom Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, estimates there are another 100,000 small businesses in the other four boroughs, most of them with 10 or fewer employees.

“This is the definition of your mom-and-pops,” Grech told Crain’s New York Business in mid-March, when businesses were first closed. “If they close now, they will probably never reopen.”

According to Giter, after about a week, almost 450 retail businesses opened the doors to their stores. All safety protocols were strictly observed. Only one or two customers were let into any one shop at a time and face masks were required. “It is clear that it is much more manageable to sanitize and clean small stores than it is to do the same in Walmart or Costco, but local government does not seem to be concerned about that,” Giter says.

Lawrence resident and businessman Bruce Backman, an organizer and adviser to Reopen New York, explained that retail and other businesses are being crushed by the closure of “nonessential” businesses, with both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio insensitive to their plight and in no rush to assist these stores and businesses.

Backman relays that a head of a New York yeshiva told him it is urgent that his group do everything they can to save businesses because, the rabbi explained, if more businesses collapse, the yeshiva, which depends on business for support, will not last much longer either.

In the Five Towns, most stores are opening with the standard protocols in place. Leadership, whether it is local or statewide, is slowly beginning to realize that the extended lockdown policies did more damage than anything else. It is silly, even folly, to believe that anyone wants to risk their lives or anyone else’s life in exchange for doing business. The lesson most likely learned is that responsible business people can do both at the same time. We don’t need to be locked up to save us from ourselves. That is just the crazy power trip of some previously unknown leaders. The news, I suppose, is that we are capable of looking out for our own well-being. The mystery is why is that so surprising?



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