Brooklyn’s Covid-19 lockdown is “unconstitutional,” suit claims

Complaint blasts “confounding” reasoning behind state-mandated closures

Turturro Law at 1602 McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty; Google Maps)
Turturro Law at 1602 McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty; Google Maps)

A Brooklyn law firm is suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio for state-mandated restrictions placed on Covid-19 hotspots in Brooklyn this week, claiming that “arbitrary” lines have forced the firm to close its doors.

Turturro Law filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn. The firm’s office is located on MacDonald Avenue in Midwood, within a “red zone” identified by Cuomo. The complaint alleges that the governor’s line-drawing violated the law firm’s constitutional rights and criticizes its “confounding” reasoning.

The lawsuit also notes that before carrying out the line-drawing, Cuomo singled out places of worship and mass gatherings, which should not apply to the law firm.

Matthew Turturro

Matthew Turturro

“It is unconscionable that our office is being forced to close while law offices literally a few blocks away from us continue to operate and generate new business,” said Matthew Turturro, a real estate attorney at the firm.

“Go ahead. We’ve gotten sued on virtually every action taken ‎during this pandemic,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said in a statement. “We’re focused on breaking this cluster and saving lives. Being unhappy is better than being sick or dead.” A spokesperson for de Blasio declined to comment.

The complaint states that none of the firm’s employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and argues that shutting the firm’s doors will do nothing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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The plaintiffs also argue that there is no “no scientific or other rational basis” for the hot zones, which allow some businesses to remain open, while others down the street are closed. Nothing will prevent individuals from traveling down the block to a more, or less, restrictive area, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs want to prevent enforcement of the measure, and are seeking compensation for the interruption to their business.

The restrictions on non-essential businesses and houses of worship are so far limited to several neighborhoods in Brooklyn — including Borough Park, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park — where positive coronavirus tests have surged in recent weeks. Schools and non-essential businesses in those areas must close, while houses of worship must limit attendance to 10 people at a time.

The reaction to the closures within the real estate community has been mixed. Small-business owners and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns, while real estate trade associations, including the Real Estate Board of New York, supported the measures and implored communities to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing.

The lockdown has been met with intense protests in the Orthodox Jewish community, with crowds massing in Borough Park on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Local media documented hundreds of observant community members circling bonfires of masks in the street, while denouncing Cuomo’s order.