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Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin says his county is open for business

Jill Konopka
Updated: May 29, 2020 08:44 PM
Created: May 29, 2020 06:31 PM

TROY -- The Rensselaer County Executive says his county is open for business. But New York State says not so fast.

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Moving ahead of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-opening plan leaves businesses and merchants facing fines up to $10,000.00, suspensions and even the possibility of having a state issued license to operate revoked for violating New York’s Executive Orders and opening ahead of planned phases.  This is according to Elizabeth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to Governor Cuomo.  Garvey also says Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin does not have the legal authority to encourage the public to violate the law.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin spoke with NewsChannel 13 Friday morning and said, "I'm done playing the game and the people of Rensselaer County are done playing that game and I'm urging every business to open your doors we are not enforcing it. And I can guarantee you this there is no way the state of NY can come in and enforce that against every business."

Debra Lockrow owns Art Centric Marketplace in downtown and said, "I totally respect Steve McLaughlin for that."

Lockrow added, "It's safe to come in here. This COVID, I take it serious, I take people's fears seriously. We can't exist being closed, it's not do-able."

The small business owner unlocked her doors officially to customers on a new reduced Thursday to Sunday schedule. Until now, sales have been mostly online, through social media and scheduled pickups.

"I don't know if people understand without sales tax revenue nobody can survive. No county can survive," Lockrow added.

For others, including neighboring T and J Handcrafted Soaps, where owner Theresa Van Duyne continues curbside sales, waiting on additional guidance.

“I can let in one person at a time, once I'm done rearranging the shop, it's right now, I need to work on those guidelines and the CDC guidelines and I don't want anyone to feel unsafe in my store. I sell an essential item. I sell soap," said Van Duyne.

The Franklin Hospitality Group in Troy has lost more than 80 events thanks to the coronavirus crisis. Many weddings, that typically average just under $30,000 to function.

Michael Fusco is the President Franklin Hospitality Group: “We cannot open today and I wish we could. The reality today is we have a NYS liquor license and we cannot jeopardize being shut down by the state and not the county. It's a bigger fallout. We'd love to, but we can't. “

Fusco wants no part of the politics, just more direction from the state.

“I’d love to have more guidance, especially on this wedding issue with us being private compared to a public facility.  Easy contract tracing, masks, coming in," Fusco said.

From Elizabeth Garvey,  Special Counsel and Senior Advisor to the Governor:

“McLaughlin knows he doesn’t have the legal authority to do this and he is bizarrely encouraging people TO ignore the doctors and public health experts, and put their own well-being as well as the public health at risk. A public official is also asking the public to violate the law. The facts are that if any business – state licensed or otherwise -- not authorized to operate under the Phase One or Phase Two reopening plan, it is violating New York's Executive Orders and may be subject to fines and suspension or revocation of state-issued licenses to operate.”

 Additional info:

  • Violations of the Executive Orders constitute a violation of Public Health Law Section 12, which can carry a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, local authorities can issue orders closing down places of business that flout the executive orders and state-issued licenses can be suspended or revoked.
  • Any workers who feel they are being asked to report for work in unsafe conditions, or before a business is allowed to re-open, should contact the NYS Department of Labor at labor.ny.gov/COVIDcomplaint  

A Troy City Spokesperson emailed NewsChannel 13:

"The City is eager to reopen the local economy, but in a safe, responsible manner that protects public health and prevents overwhelming local hospitals. We are working closely with our merchants, small businesses, restaurants, and commercial associations in preparation for further reopening phases under the NY-Forward plan. Public safety remains our primary concern, and we will follow the guidance from the regional control room and public health experts."

WEB EXTRA: Full interview with Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin


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