Speaking specifically about several Orthodox Jewish communities in New York City that have defied the COVID-19 lockdown, Cuomo said he would “impound all funds” from these jurisdictions if they continue to violate his orders.
Cuomo, who has been widely criticized for his own policy failures in the COVID response, appeared to deflect blame onto his intra-party Democrat rival, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, suggesting he went too easy on the Jewish scofflaws.
However, de Blasio faced accusations of anti-Semitism during the virus’s peak for cracking down on Jewish worshipers while permitting Muslims to gather in observance of their sacred holidays.
“If I had to do this all over again on lessons learned, I would have had the state take over or hire statewide enforcement, because the enforcement from the local governments is very uneven, especially when it’s politically sensitive,” Cuomo said, according to the New York Daily News.
“And that’s what we’re running into with a lot of these Ultra-Orthodox communities, who are also very politically powerful,” he added.
Schools and yeshivas—the education centers where Jews study holy scripture—found in violation of Cuomo’s order will be served notices to shut down, he said.
“I don’t like to do that. Budgets are tough all across the board,” Cuomo said. “I don’t know how else to get them to actually do the enforcement they need to do, so hopefully that will motivate them.”
Cuomo said he couldn’t specify how much money the state would restrict, but noted that the state government legally has the right to withhold all funds if necessary.
“We have the authority to impound all funds to a locality,” he said. “How much will we penalize them? It depends, and it will be to our discretion.”
The threat comes a week after the state issued a temporary limit on gatherings, schools and businesses in nine hot-spot zones, most of which are ultra-Orthodox communities.
Dozens of private yeshivas, however, have defied the order, and Cuomo insinuated that de Blasio had let them.
“They don’t want to do the enforcement. Why? Because it’s politically sensitive,” the governor said without mentioning de Blasio by name.
“The community we’re talking about today is a politically powerful community… so I understand they don’t want to incur the wrath and the political downside.”