Since the state began reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly condemned “bad actors.”
Photos of overcrowded parks and bustling restaurants have been circulating on social media for weeks. In July, hundreds of people partied in the streets of Astoria. On Long Island, investigators were called to probe a drive-in Chainsmokers concert where attendees stood shoulder-to-shoulder by the stage.
While some establishments have attempted to find loopholes in state rules — one pub offered “Cuomo chips” after the state mandated liquor only be served with food — the state is taking social distancing violations seriously. Some 132 liquor licenses have been suspended and 707 charges filed against businesses.
“This is about enforcement, and while state investigators are working tirelessly to enforce compliance, local governments must step up and do their jobs,” Cuomo said Tuesday after nearly 7,000 compliance checks were conducted over the previous week.
To get a better idea of where violations are occurring, The Real Deal mapped out areas getting the most 311 calls related to social distancing. Some properties have several complaints against them, and not all 311 calls result in compliance checks or violations.
As the state and localities crack down, some landlords say enforcing the rules isn’t as easy as it may seem.
“They don’t have any power or authority to do anything other than try to get the person out of the restaurant, which just escalates things, and then they’re punished for something they really couldn’t do anything about,” Katie Murphy, an attorney in Goodwin Real Estate Industry Group, said of business violations.
Brooklyn saw the most 311 calls of any borough between March and July, with 5,891 on commercial properties and 4,259 on residential ones. Manhattan was second with 5,095 commercial calls and 2,785 residential calls.
Stores and restaurants in Astoria’s 11103 ZIP code drew 380 calls, more than any other zip code in the city. In Bushwick, the ZIP code 11221 saw the most complaints for residential properties with 272 calls.
Green Kitchen, an approximately 2,000-square-foot restaurant at 1619 Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, had 59 social distancing complaints, the most of any commercial property in the five boroughs. The Stephen Wise Towers, a New York City Housing Authority building at 120 West 91st Street, with 1,197 residential units, received 136 calls, the most of any residential property. The agency declined to comment.
Restaurants in particular face heavy consequences if they don’t abide by social distancing rules, which, in the city, allow for outdoor dining only.
In the Bronx, Luke’s Cafe, otherwise known at Cafe Serata, was hit with a $35,000 penalty and its liquor license was rescinded after the city received 311 calls reporting large groups of people drinking inside the bar. The NYPD issued several warnings to the establishment before such measures were taken, according to a report by News 12.
However, not all complaints were as severe. Attorney Leni Cummins, a partner at Cozen O’Connor’s real estate practice who represents condominium and cooperative boards, said that the most common complaints she has encountered relate to contractors who aren’t supposed to be working on a property or guests not wearing masks.
She said that while a landlord can’t take action against every tenant not wearing a mask, the best thing that an owner can do is enforce a safety plan to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“If a landlord turns a blind eye completely,” she said, “clearly they’re going to be facing potential liability.”
Contact Sasha Jones at [email protected]