FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nassau County is moving to help villages, towns and cities recover from the coronavirus shutdown, cutting red tape to allow streets to close so businesses can spread out.
Economists say the shutdown has caused steep economic damage to the region with Long Island’s unemployment claims surging to levels 20 times higher than a year ago.
After more than two months in lockdown, downtowns are open across Long Island, but sales are slow.
“I’m nervous that the cases are just going to become higher and higher,” Nassau County student Jacqueline Andruzzi told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
That remains the fear for many.
The Main Line LIRR had more police than passengers on some platforms during Thursday’s afternoon rush.
Work resumed on construction sites, including Belmont Park, where the New York Islanders hope to make opening day October 2021.
“I’m feeling positive now because businesses are opening,” Nassau County resident Tommy Rendano said.
That positivity is what small business owners crave.
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A new plan has been put forth to close main corridors, hoping to boost foot traffic for merchants and expand spaces for restaurants’ outdoor dining.
“We are launching the Open Streets pilot program,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “The extra capacity of sidewalk and street seating could make the difference for survival.”
Municipalities could apply to close county roads that run through them in communities such as Farmingdale, Woodmere, Great Neck and Floral Park and expect a Department of Public Works response within seven days.
“You ordered food delivered to you at your home or at a park bench. Now it’s going to be delivered to a table in the street,” Nassau Health Commissioner Lawrence Einsenstein said.
Six foot or more social distancing rules apply.
“I think it will be overwhelming. We’re doing it by reservation,” Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said.
The road closures could occur once a week, once a month, or even on a single weekend evening.
On highly trafficked roads, not everyone is in favor.
“I don’t think it’s beneficial to shut down a main road,” one woman said.
“You can still sit out here and cars can still pass this way,” another woman said.
“‘Cause you’ll get backup traffic,” one man said.
“Not one size fits all,” another man said.
In the meantime, there are loads of inquires about Nassau’s family drive-in movies. The first one, “Trolls,” is planned for Friday night outside the Coliseum. Bring your popcorn or buy it from food trucks. Reservations in advance are $30 per car.
The county executive says families are desperate for normalcy and adds that closing main streets may not be suited for all villages and towns.