Cuomo casts eyes on a post-pandemic New York as Long Island preps for reopening

The Jones Beach Boardwalk.
Photo via Getty Images

Veterinarians are cleared to resume office hours, sports leagues are allowed to open training camps and the Long Island Rail Road is adding train cars as Nassau and Suffolk Counties are expected to reopen this week.

As these and other signs of recovery from COVID-19 begin to spring up in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday the state needs to look ahead toward a long-term effort to make the Empire State stronger and more resilient than before.

To that end, Cuomo announced the formation of a blue ribbon panel of experts focused on looking at improving telehealth and expanding broadband internet access. Former Google CEO and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has been charged with heading up the panel.

“I want them to come up with ideas and make sure that we’re better for what we’ve gone through, and start preparing for a new chapter in this saga,” the governor said.

Cuomo warned that the recovery has only just begun for New York, which has lost more to COVID-19 than any other state in the country. As life resumes, New Yorkers are urged to continue wearing masks, exercising social distancing and avoiding large gatherings of 10 or more to help prevent a second wave of the pandemic.

The governor compared the handling of COVID-19 in New York toward the creation of a living history book.

“Chapter 1 was dealing with the emergency, stabilizing the health crisis. We have just about completed Chapter 1,” Cuomo said. “We’ve started chapter 2, which is reopening after you have stabilized the health crisis. Chapter 3, which we’re going to begin preparing for soon, is rebuilding and recreating the economy.”

Cuomo believes the economic recovery from COVID-19 won’t be immediate — and that the government will play an important role in rebuilding it into something better than the economy was prior to the pandemic.

“It’s not going to be enough to go back to where the economy was,” the governor said, noting that “too many small businesses have closed,” and larger businesses have cut jobs to protect profit margins and shareholders.

Moreover, shifts in technology resulting from offices sending their employees home might lead to additional job losses. Some employees, Cuomo opined, may not even want to return to an office setting and would prefer telecommuting.

He suggested that government will need to work on its own, and in partnership with the private sector, in developing a post-pandemic New York economy. To increase confidence in that economy, Cuomo challenged the state to think and do big things — namely through public works projects.

The governor held his May 24 press conference at Jones Beach, a public works project that opened in August 1929. Under the tutelage of master builder and Long Island Commission of Parks President Robert Moses, Jones Beach was developed out of seven miles of empty marshland on a barrier island to become the premier summer playground of its time.

“They [built] it in three years, and it was a marvel because they believed in themselves, because they had smart, competent government,” Cuomo said. “People believed in government then, and they believe in government again because we” helped save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor suggested that New Yorkers “get that kind of ambition and optimism back” to move forward with public works to rebuild and modernize roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure as the state recovers from the pandemic.

Blue Ribbon Commission on Telehealth and Broadband Members

  • Richard Parsons – Chair, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Darren Walker – President, Ford Foundation
  • Dennis Rivera – Former Chair, SEIU healthcare
  • Plinio Ayala – President/CEO, Per Scholas
  • Charles Phillips – Chair/Former CEO, Infor
  • Sid Mukherjee – Physician/Author, Assistant Professor at Columbia
  • Jane Rosenthal – Co-founder/CEO/Executive Chair, Tribeca Film Festival
  • Dr. Toyin Ajayi – Chief Health Officer & Co-founder, Cityblock Health
  • Elizabeth Alexander – President, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Martha Pollack – President, Cornell University
  • Steven Koonin – Director, NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress
  • Satish K. Tripathi – President, SUNY Buffalo
  • Hamdi Ulukaya – Founder/Chairman/CEO, Chobani
  • Maurie McInnis – Incoming President, SUNY Stony Brook
  • Ginni Rometty – Executive Chair, IBM

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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