Brooklyn business owners on edge over arbitrary COVID-19 closure zones

They’ve been pushed to the edge.

Owners of Brooklyn businesses located near the boundaries between two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s color-coded coronavirus restriction zones are fed-up with losing customers to competitors in more permissive zones mere feet away.

“It was getting better two weeks ago, and now we’re back to square one,” said Vito Conigliaro, manager of J&V Pizza in Bensonhurst. “We’ve just been destroyed.”

The slice spot sits about a block inside the borough’s red zone, where earlier this month Cuomo re-restricted eateries to takeout and delivery service, in one of several precautions with the coronavirus mounting a comeback.

But just a two-minute walk down 18th Avenue from J&V, hungry locals can still enjoy outdoor dining in the orange zone — and nine minutes away in the least-restrictive yellow zone, they can sit down for a meal inside a pizza purveyor.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for renewed restrictions in ZIP codes where the virus was surging, Cuomo instead opted for an approach based on COVID-19 diagnosis data rather than geography, establishing three, color-coded zones with differing levels of rules in Brooklyn, Queens and some upstate pockets.

But that method sowed some initial confusion along the borders between zones.

“We thought we were on the yellow side of the street, and they insisted we were in the orange zone, and said we have 10 minutes to vacate the facility and lock our doors,” recalled Christopher Ganim, co-owner of gym chain Harbor Fitness, of the day city Department of Buildings workers came to shutter their Mill Basin location.

“We had 75 people that we had to kick out,” he said. “They were standing in the middle of Strickland Avenue.”

The establishment is, in fact, barely inside the orange zone, where Cuomo closed what he called “high-risk,” non-essential businesses, including gyms.

While the orange zones fare better than red zones — where all non-essential businesses are closed — they lag behind the yellow zones, where Ganim’s rivals face no such restrictions.

“We have a competitor that’s a few blocks away who is allowed to stay open,” he said.

Mike Rudy, co-owner of the Funfest NY bowling alley down the block from Harbor Fitness, is allowed to stay open because bowling is considered lower-risk than gyms — albeit with a 10-person capacity for the 30,000-square-foot space, he said.

“They are basically going to put us out of business if this stays like this,” said Rudy, blasting the state restrictions as “absurd and ridiculous.”

“My front door is in an orange zone, and if I step off the sidewalk in the street, it’s yellow,” he cracked.

Rudy also questioned the methodology by which the restrictions were determined.

“I don’t know where hotspots are, but they’re definitely not over here,” he said.

Cuomo signaled on Sunday that the restrictions appear to be working and could be adjusted as early as Wednesday — just over two weeks after he announced them.

But even if that happens, Conigliaro said small businesses like his pizzeria are far from out of the woods.

“New York is in really bad shape right now,” he said. “There’s a long way to go.”

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