New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio gave New Yorkers another gut punch last week by announcing that restaurants will not be allowed to open inside dining until next June, despite the city having met its goal of keeping COVID-19 infection rates below 1% for three straight weeks.
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The mayor added insult to injury, defining restaurants as a “very optional activity,” a definition that no doubt would be disputed by the industry’s 300,000 local workers and their families, half of whom are out of work.
As Mayor de Blasio keeps moving the goalposts of what is "acceptable risk" for safely opening the economy, businesses keep wondering whether he really understands the nature of business at all.
His youthful pilgrimages to revolutionary Nicaragua and Castro’s Cuba (where he went on his honeymoon), not to mention his penchant for quoting Che Guevara and Karl Marx, seem to better inform his views of capitalism than actually getting to know the businesses his policies are destroying.
At least moving companies are doing well. But even they are worried about business drying up because the moves are all in just one direction: out of town.
Mayor de Blasio is in denial about the exodus, saying “I can’t give you the exact number, but it’s a small number of people” fleeing the city.
What’s clear is that he’s lost touch not merely with the current mood of New Yorkers, but with the exciting essence of a capitalist New York, which has been a beacon for the best and the brightest around the world.
In fact, outsiders often show a better understanding of New York’s appeal than our anti-competitive mayor.
There's a revealing moment in the 1999 Wim Wenders documentary "Buena Vista Social Club" in which a troupe of aging Cuban musicians, brought to New York to play at Carnegie Hall, are walking up 6th Avenue in speechless wonder.
Of course, they are in awe of New York's affluence, compared to the uniformed poverty of Communist Cuba. But most of all the Cubans are amazed by the sheer volume of activity and movement going on all around them.
"Actividad, actividad, actividad," repeats the singer Ibrahim Ferrer over and over again.
Today that once-bustling 6th Avenue is dead. Sidewalks are empty. Street-level storefronts are either closed, have "For Rent" signs, or have just a smattering of customers.
New York's ubiquitous traffic has slowed to a trickle. It's as though a neutron bomb has hit, destroying most of the population but eerily leaving the buildings intact.
In fact, it's not all that different from the feeling you get strolling up an avenue in Havana.
To the extent Mayor de Blasio acknowledges New York's fall, he blames it all on the coronavirus. But the virus merely triggered a problem that's been building ever since he became mayor six years ago.
On taking office, the mayor quickly began reversing many of the hard-won policies that transformed New York from a crime-ridden cesspool of violence, vice and filth, into a model of safety, prosperity and cleanliness.
The first of these wonderful transformations undermined by de Blasio policies were quality of life issues.
He worked closely with the City Council to decriminalize "small" crimes...like jumping turnstiles, aggressive panhandling, and public urination.
Then came the bigger issues, like bail "reform," allowing repeat and violent offenders back out on the street to create mayhem. And all the while new taxes and regulations kept penalizing success and driving businesses and successful artists and entrepreneurs away.
Of course, de Blasio's policies could only go so far, slowly chipping around basic rules that protected private property, public safety and decorum.
But a crippling pandemic gave him the authority he needed to bring New Yorkers to their knees.
His executive orders, including the most recent "decision" to continue the ban on indoor dining, are made with an imperial authority and a disdain for desperate business owners that would have made Fidel Castro proud.
Indeed, the disappearance of "bourgeois" economic activity, in shops, in the streets, in the restaurants, are all befitting of a mayor who quotes Karl Marx and has shown open contempt for New York’s luxury businesses in the past.
No matter that these shops and restaurants act as a magnet for millions of tourists from around the globe. No matter that they employ thousands of New Yorkers. No matter that their tax revenue is the lifeblood of the mayor's government, including his salary and his wife's extravagant public spending projects.
Even liberal Gov. Andrew Cuomo has more than once had to remind the mayor that 50% of New York's budget comes from the top 1% of taxpayers. Drive them out, and all is lost.
But the governor's warnings are apparently falling on deaf ears. It's unlikely that anyone or anything will reverse the course on which the mayor has been fixed from the beginning.
In fact, he continues to insult the safety and sensibilities of residents by doing truly insane things like housing sex offenders who prey on children in expensive hotels close to public elementary schools. Even Upper West Side liberals shake their heads about that. And yet they voted for this man...twice!
That's really the point. The future of New York, and all cities now under threat from anarchy, soaring crime and failed management, is not up to the leaders that led us here. It's up to us.
We must find representatives who endorse and fight for policies that build cities instead of tearing them down...representatives who appreciate the buzz of private-sector actividad as exactly what draws people into cities as places of immense opportunity.
For now, New Yorkers are stuck with a mayor, who either by accident or design, is creating a model of Havana on the Hudson...where everyone is equally poor and equally hopeless.
David Asman joined Fox News Channel in 1997 and helped launch Fox Business Network (FBN) in 2007. He is the host of FBN’s post-market program "Bulls & Bears" which can be seen weekdays from 5-6PM/ET.