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Westchester CE Latimer Forms Reopening Task Force to Prep Businesses for Post COVID-19 Era
WHITE PLAINS—Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced on June 1 that he had formed the Westchester County Reopening Task Force, which is charged with finding solutions to advance local businesses interests once the coronavirus crisis ends.
The task force is co-chaired by Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker, a former small business owner and past president of the Rye Chamber of Commerce, and Louis Lanza, a restaurateur with businesses in Westchester County.
Westchester County Executive Latimer said, “What we have here is a group of individuals who have served in a variety of capacities, to serve in this particular capacity, to help organize our efforts to reach out to the businesses of Westchester County and do everything we can to help them reopen as fast as possible and as successfully as possible.”
Westchester, along with the entire Mid-Hudson region, recently entered phase one of the reopening process that included easing of restrictions for construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors.
The Mid-Hudson region entered phase two of the reopening process on Tuesday, June 9. Among the industries affected by the phase two designation are the real estate sector, along with offices, essential and phase two in-store retail, vehicle sales, leases, and rentals, retail rental, repair, and cleaning, commercial building management, hair salons and barbershops.
Latimer, noting that the metrics concerning COVID-19, such as the number of new cases and hospitalizations and deaths are all on the decline, said, “I have every reason to believe we are going to make phase two (on June 9).”
County Legislator Parker, who had been running for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, announced on May 29 that she was suspending her campaign.
“I see this reopening task force as a unified voice for all different sectors of business in Westchester County with the ‘rock stars’ of those sectors,” said Parker. “This will be a way to get Westchester back to where we were—and even better than before.”
Lanza said of the task force’s formation, “Restaurants are working ahead of the curve in getting ready everything they will need to do to open. We can do this safely. There are safe ways of running our businesses and once we get the go ahead, we can safely reopen and serve our customers.”
County officials note that the task force will play a significant role in communicating out to the business and nonprofit communities guidelines and best practices as the region enters each stage of phased reopening.
Other members of the Latimer administration that attended the press conference were: Bridget Gibbons, the director of economic development for Westchester County and Joan McDonald, Westchester County’s Director of Operations.
County officials added that the task force will also establish working groups that will focus on each critical area such as health care, labor, hospitality, general business, etc. These working groups will allow for all Westchester business owners to have an opportunity to give input.
The County Executive said that additional appointments to the task force and to the working groups may be forthcoming. Among the industries that will be focused on by the working groups include: real estate, health care, labor, hospitality and restaurants, among others, Latimer noted.
Among the task force members named at the press conference include: Ross Pepe and John Cooney of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., Marsha Gordon and John Ravitz of The Business Council of Westchester; Michael Romita and Amy Allen of the Westchester County Association; Sean Meade, president of the Westchester Hotel Association; Peter Herrero, restauranteur; Janet Langsam of Arts Westchester; Carola Bracco of non-profit Neighbors Link; Jan Fisher of Nonprofit Westchester; Tom Carey of the AFL-CIO, Edward Doyle, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester; Susan Fox of White Plains Hospital; Lindsay Farrell of the Open Door Family Medical Center; Joseph Simone of Simone Development; Marty Berger of Saber Real Estate Advisors; Seamus Carey of Iona College; Edward Monroy of the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Nicholas Campbell of the Rivertowns Chamber of Commerce; Gayle Marchia of the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce; Catherine White from the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Jim Bostic from the Nepperhan Community Center; Rabbi Daniel Groper of Community Synagogue of Rye and Rev. Erwin Trollinger of the Calvary Baptist Church.
It should be noted that the county’s largest business organizations—the Business Council of Westchester and the Westchester County Association—have also established task forces in connection with the phased reopening of the county’s economy.
Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin, who also attended the press conference, said of the county’s newly formed tas force, “This is an important challenge. We are in a place we have never been before and we must reopen in a more vibrant and smarter way so businesses can survive, grow and move to the next level.”
The first virtual meeting of the Reopening Task Force was scheduled on June 4 with future sessions expected to also be run virtually.