LONSBERRY: Orange Zone Is The New Redlining


The orange zone is a lot like a red line.

               It runs right through the heart of upstate New York’s black and Latino businesses, decimating them in a disproportionate fashion that looks an awful lot like racism.

               Don’t get me wrong. I’m an old, white, Republican guy who grew up in the sticks. I think 90% of the crying modern America does over race is bull crap. I am definitely not woke. My fist is not in the air.

               But fair is fair and right is right.

               And what’s being done to restaurants and other businesses in Andy Cuomo’s orange zones is not right, and that is nowhere more true than in regard to minority-owned restaurants.

               The “orange zone” is a designation of the governor’s seemingly now-abandoned micro-cluster approach to fighting the spread of covid. First he tried statewide shutdowns, which were catastrophic. Then he decided to make the shutdowns smaller and focused in areas with high levels of covid infection and low levels of hospital-bed availability. If covid rose above certain levels, a color-coded system – yellow, orange, red – kicked in.

               One of the restrictions of the orange zone is that restaurants can have no indoor seating, which basically means they can’t be restaurants. They can sell take out, have people sit outside in the snow, or do business with the predatory third-party deliver apps.

               None of those provides a route to profitability.

               Meaning those restaurants are out of business and their employees are out of a job. Maybe not 100%, but pretty much.

               Adding insult to injury is that while a business in one place can be in the orange zone, a competing business down the road may be in the yellow zone or not be restricted at all.

               It’s a catastrophe.

               And it’s locked in place.

               The micro-clutser fad passed through state government in November, and upstate New York’s three big cities – Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo – were each declared to be orange zones. Since then, there have been no new designations conferred, and no old designations removed – even though many zip codes across the state have risen above the orange-zone threshold and some zip codes within orange zones have fallen below the threshold.

               Many of the governor’s designated orange zones are surrounded by yellow zones which have higher rates of covid infection.

               That makes no sense whatsoever, and reflects nothing but the arrogant and capricious exercise of business-destroying power by a governor with a god complex.

               So this outdated and apparently no longer used rating system hangs completely unnecessarily around the neck of Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo restaurants.

               Let’s get back to skin color.

               Given residence patterns in upstate New York, it is accurate to say that – across the region – the significant majority of black and Latino people live in the cities of Rochester, Syracuse or Buffalo. Likewise, the significant majority of white people live outside the cities of Rochester, Syracuse or Buffalo.

               That means a significant majority of people of color in upstate New York live in areas with orange zone designations and a significant majority of the white people live outside areas with orange zone designations.

               Does that bother any of you woke Democrats?

               Further, it is in these three upstate cities that the largest share of black- and Latino-owned restaurants are located. Many of these are humble, family operations where people work hard and well to pursue their own prosperity and American dream. Many are small operations, the first rung of entrepreneurship and business ownership for people whose dreams and labors are working to lift them out of poverty.

               And they have all been kicked in the head.

               By Andy Cuomo.

               For no reason.

               He talks the talk, but he does not walk the walk. And to give a state of the state address, as he did yesterday, that pledges the state to fight discrimination and so-called structural racism, while simultaneously disproportionally killing the businesses of blacks and Latinos, is a special kind of hypocrisy.

               The lingering orange zone restrictions are a poison to every restaurant, and a cruel and malicious policy of a narcissistic governor, and should be lifted immediately. But as horrific as their impact is on all restaurants, the policy almost wipes out all of upstate’s black- and Latino-owned restaurants.

               And that’s on Andy Cuomo.

               He’s good at condemning racism, while perpetrating it himself.

               He’s good at promising prosperity, while destroying it.

               He’s good at talking, while his covid policies dig the New York hole ever deeper.