Council bill to reopen day care centers would be boost for landlords

Some 2,200 facilities citywide have been shuttered since March

City Council members Debi (Deborah) Rose (right) and Brad Lander (Getty, iStock)
City Council members Debi (Deborah) Rose (right) and Brad Lander (Getty, iStock)

Week after week, Tim O’Sullivan has been watching New York’s coronavirus numbers fall and businesses reopen — but not his three Queens day care tenants.

“They’ve been shut down for three months,” he said. “They have no indication when they’ll be allowed to open.”

In mid-June the landlord managed to bring his plight directly to Mayor Bill de Blasio when 1010 WINS reporter Juliet Papa read his message at a press conference. The mayor had no answer, but now two City Council members do.

Deborah Rose of Staten Island and Brad Lander of Brooklyn will introduce a bill next month to compel the city to let its 2,200 day care centers welcome children back, the Daily News reported.

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“NYC’s working families urgently need safe child care,” Lander tweeted Wednesday night. “Child care centers need to be able to safely re-open now. But @NYCMayor @nycHealthy have failed to provide the guidance they need.”

That would be de Blasio and his Department of Health.

At his June 17 press call the mayor told Papa, “We have to figure out how to get to the point where day care centers can get up running and to help them do so. I don’t have that answer for you perfectly today. I just don’t. But as we’ve been working through the pieces, this one’s very much on our mind.”

In a phone interview the next day, O’Sullivan was wholly unimpressed with de Blasio’s response.

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“It wasn’t an answer at all,” he said. “If we don’t open now, with day care and schools, when are we going to open? We have almost no Covid hospitalization and deaths in New York City right now, so what are we waiting for?”

Phase three of the city’s reopening starts July 6. Day care and schools are in phase four, which has no start date.

Despite Lander’s promise to “make it happen,” the City Council bill by itself probably cannot set a reopening date. Neither can de Blasio, as that power rests with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But the bill could call attention to the plight of closed businesses and landlords such as O’Sullivan, whose day care tenants in Flushing, Whitestone and Little Neck have burned through their security deposits and paid little rent since early April.

The problem for day care and schools is not that children are at much risk from the coronavirus but that they will spread it to each other and then to teachers and parents. The science is unclear on how easily children transmit the virus, but de Blasio and Cuomo were criticized for waiting until late March to close schools. Some models show an earlier shutdown of the city would have saved thousands of lives.

O’Sullivan, who runs Whitestone-based Fulcrum Real Estate Advisors, is a close observer of city politics. He was infuriated that de Blasio deemed mass protests to be safe but not day care.

“Those things that were politically expedient for him, or were on his agenda, were okay,” the landlord said. “That’s what bothers me: the double standards.”

As for his day care properties, there is no Plan B. They cannot be easily converted to other uses, and even if Cuomo allows them to reopen at 50 percent of capacity, they might not. “Their margins are so thin,” O’Sullivan said. “They won’t open because they’d be losing money every day. They’d be better off just staying closed.”