Eating out in the Big Apple could soon cost diners 10 percent more — but local legislators who support the temporary surcharge say its crucial to keeping restaurants in business during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This bill fundamentally is about saving the restaurant industry,” said Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) who sponsored the legislation that’s scheduled for a vote Wednesday.
“We’re trying to give restaurants the option of adding a surcharge to let their customers know they need to raise a little bit more money to make their ends meet,” Borelli said, noting that more and more eateries are closing down daily because they can’t afford to operate under coronavirus-related restrictions.
“Outdoor dining and limited capacity indoor dining are helpful, but not enough at this time — and not going to enough when the cold weather comes,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday.
“The goal of the fee is to help restaurants have enough income to cover their costs,” Johnson said.
The optional 10-percent fee would be permitted until 90 days after the reinstatement of full indoor dining. City restaurants will be able to allow indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 30 with possible expansion to 50 percent a month later.
Restaurants are currently prohibited by a decades-old city law from charging any fees beyond the price of food, drink and taxes.
Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told The Post he fully backs the bill on behalf of restaurant owners.
“The passage of the COVID recovery bill will help struggling restaurants generate additional revenue to help pay for expenses like PPE for their employees, outdoor dining setups, rent, labor and other expenses to give them a fighting chance of survival,” Rigie said.
The bill passed the council’s consumer affairs committee Wednesday morning with a 6-to-1 vote.
The only “No” vote came from Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) who said it’s unfair to low wage restaurant workers who may get smaller tips because of the surcharge.
One Fair Wage, a national group representing service industry workers, echoed Lander’s concerns saying it would hurt waiters whose tips are already down by over half.
But Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) said the surcharge is “literally the gap to whether or not restaurants are going to be able to survive in this city or not.”
“I think were doing for workers today, we’re keeping their jobs alive,” Yeger said, adding that the temporary surcharge is preferable to restaurants raising their menu prices.
Mayor de Blasio enthusiastically endorsed the bill, though his reps could not say when he would sign it into law.
“The mayor supports the bill and he’ll be proud to sign it. This is an unprecedented emergency, and we’ll do everything we can to support the industry that employs thousands of New Yorkers and makes us the greatest city in the world,” mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz told The Post.
State GOP introduces bill to strengthen parole board oversight
ALBANY — Outraged over the Cuomo administration’s recent stream of parole approvals for convicted cop-killers Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom and murderer-rapist Samuel Ayala, Republican state lawmakers are introducing a new bill giving the Legislature more oversight of the state parole board.
State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Syracuse) and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (R-Gowanda) are introducing a bill that would strengthen legislative surveillance over the state Parole Board, slamming recent releases of individuals and arguing they do not take into account the feelings of victims.
“The recent decisions by the parole board granting release to violent offenders such as Samuel Ayala and Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom are textbook examples of what’s wrong with this board. If these heinous actions don’t warrant a full sentence, what does?” Barclay seethed.
“We need to continue to fight for the victims of violent crimes and create laws that help protect them, not make it more difficult for them to get on with their lives.”
“New York state’s pro-criminal mentality has reached a boiling point. Simply put, victims are treated as second class while convicted felons are given priority,” he added.
Ayala, 68, was granted parole earlier this month following 43 years behind bars for raping and murdering two women — as their children heard their screams in the room next door.
Bell, now in his early 70s, was convicted of murdering NYPD officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones in 1971, and was sprung in April 2018.
The former Black Revolutionary Army soldier’s accomplice — 68-year-old Anthony Bottom — is set to be paroled as early as this October.
The new legislation would allow the state Senate and Assembly to remove any one of the state’s 19-member parole board commissioners by a majority vote — right now only state law solely grants the governor removal powers.
It would also require a minimum of three members to interview inmates seeking parole prior to a decision, as current state law only requires the sign off of two officials.
Lastly, the bill would require a unanimous vote of the three members ahead of each determination on parole. Currently only a majority consensus is required.
Family members who lost loved ones at the hands of Bell, Bottom and Ayala backed the proposal.
“I’ve been giving victim impact statements since 2002,” recounted the widow of slain NYPD cop Joseph Piagentini, 76-year-old Diane Piagentini.
“It’s just six months between statements and any changes to the parole hearings are in the hands of the inmates — and the burden is on the victims. We are living the horrendous killings of our families every two years. We don’t even know if the commissioners actually read our statements,” she told The Post, adding each time she appealed to the board against the release of Bell and Bottom she relived the nightmarish pain and hurt associated with her husband’s death, over four decades ago.
“It takes me three days to write a statement. My daughters were 3 years old and 15 months when my husband was killed. What the parole board is basically doing now is they are only taking into consideration what the inmate has done in prison, they are not taking into consideration the heinousness of the crime.”
“You as the victim have to be proactive in finding out what’s going on,” she said, explaining she along with family members waited for weeks before they found about Bell’s parole approval — only after calling the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on her own.
“I’ve felt that throughout all these years, especially in these later years that Cuomo is our governor and you must be proactive now.”
Jason Minter, 50, was only six years old when Samuel Ayala took his mother Bonnie Minter and friend Shelia Watson into a room in Rockland County before raping and killing both women.
He said the last time he saw his mother’s rapist and murderer, Ayala was laughing and running out the door after committing the twin murders.
“My concern is that he will be frustrated and I’ve been the most vocal in keeping him in — he’s used my name in the past. It’s always “Jason Minter and the Watson family,” The last thing I heard was him laughing that he raped and shot my mother and ran out laughing,” he told The Post, adding he plans to install cameras outside his house.
Ayala was authorized for release on Sept. 3, but has remained in custody as DOCCS has yet to approve his housing assignment.
Minter said in the past he has retold his horrific story to the parole board in person, but this year due to COVID-19 restrictions he was forced to provide his impact statement via phone call.
“They wouldn’t do a Zoom meeting — I was on vacation in the mountains and had to drive to get service and then sit on the phone and tell someone about how my mother was brutally raped and murdered — only to have this very board tell the world and the state that this guy now feels remorseful and wants to be released.”
“It’s dehumanizing it makes you feel almost like you’re the perpetrator, you’re the one who did something wrong. It makes you feel like you did something wrong and the state is making the case that this monster should be able to walk the streets with my 11-year-old.”
The early release of Judith Clark in May 2019 similarly sparked outrage after Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted the former Weather Underground radical and Brink’s robbery getaway driver’s 75-years-to-life sentence to 35-years-to-life in 2016 — marking another case that sparked outrage among victims’ family members.
The infamous 1981 Brink’s robbery resulted in the death of Nyack Officers Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown of the Nyack Police Department and security guard/driver Peter Paige.
Bob Dennison, who served as the Parole Board chairman under former Gov. George Pataki, marked Clark’s release as a turning point.
“That sent a message to the Parole Board. They’re much more liberal in granting release to convicts who have long sentences,” he said during an interview in May.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has also signed off on the release of thousands of inmates within the past couple months, citing concerns over more compromised, or older individuals contracting COVID-19 while in a congregate setting.
The legislation has yet to receive a sponsor in the state Senate, and is subject to a majority vote by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
A DOCCS spokesman told The Post the agency does not comment on pending legislation.
South Korea says slain man tried to defect to North Korea
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Tuesday that a government official slain by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding that the man, who had gambling debts, swam against unfavorable currents with the help of a life jacket and a floatation device and conveyed his intention of resettling in North Korea.
Senior coast guard officer Yoon Seong-hyun said at a televised briefing that there was a “very low possibility” that the man could have fallen from a ship or tried to kill himself because he was putting on a life jacket when he was found in North Korean waters last week.
Yoon said tidal currents at the time would also make it extremely difficult for him to drift into North Korean waters naturally.
The coast guard said its assessment was based on an analysis of tidal currents in the area, a visit to a government boat the official had been aboard before his disappearance, investigation of his financial transactions and a meeting with South Korean Defense Ministry officials.
Yoon said the man conveyed his wish to defect before his death. He cited intelligence showing North Korea knew the man’s name, age, height and hometown as an evidence of his communication with the North.
Yoon didn’t elaborate. But some experts said he likely was referring to South Korea’s interception of communications among North Korean officials about the man.
Coast guard officials have previously said the 47-year-old official was a father of two with some debts. Yoon said Tuesday the debts totaled about 330 million won ($282,240), 80% of which were from gambling.
It’s still unclear whether Tuesday’s announcement would sooth mounting questions about why the man was in North Korean waters. The brother of the late official has said it was more likely that he fell into the sea by accident. The official had been aboard a government inspection ship before he disappeared.
South Korea has accused North Korea of having fatally shot him and burning his body. North Korea acknowledged that its troops killed him because he refused to answer to questions and attempted to flee. But North Korea said its troops only burned the man’s floatation device.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology over the man’s death, but his government hasn’t confirmed the man was trying to defect.
The man’s shooting has triggered a huge political firestorm in South Korea, with conservatives launching fierce political attacks on liberal President Moon Jae-in, who espouses greater ties with the North.
Democrats unveil $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief proposal
House Democrats on Monday night unveiled a scaled-down $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package in an attempt to revive long-stalled talks with the Trump administration on the measure.
The package, $1.2 billion less than the version that passed the lower chamber in May, would include a second round of $1,200 checks to most Americans and bring back a $600-a-week jobless benefit.
Previous coronavirus relief packages were negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Talks between the two for a new measure have never gained steam, but House Democrats hope the latest proposal will bring White House negotiators back to the table.
“We’ve come down $1 trillion, and they need to come up because we have to crush this virus,” Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC.
“It takes money to crush the virus. It takes money to make the schools safe. It takes money to put money in people’s pockets.”
Though their newest package was substantially slashed, it’s still far above the $650 billion to $1 trillion range Senate Republicans are aiming for.
Monday’s proposal would send $436 billion to state and local governments, $225 billion to colleges and universities, and deliver another round of subsidies to businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program.
With Post wires
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