Why won’t state government tell everyone what ‘essential’ really means?

It’s been a month and a half since Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all “nonessential” businesses shuttered as part of New York’s COVID-19 lockdown, and we’re still no closer to knowing exactly what “non-essential” means.

Cuomo singled out some businesses as “essential” in his March PAUSE order, but put the Empire State Development Corp. in charge of actually making the calls. That’s the same state agency that oversaw Cuomo’s disastrous upstate economic-development projects, including the corruption-ridden Buffalo Billion scandal.

And it’s not transparent with the public about its new job: It denied two freedom-of-information requests for a list of businesses declared essential from the watchdog at the Government Justice Center. (The center is appealing, a process that can take weeks.)

The governor and his minions should always be transparent — but especially now, when Cuomo has vast power to handle the crisis as he sees fit. It makes little sense for the state to declare some businesses open and order others closed without letting anyone know what the criteria are.

ESDC should release the lists right away, as well as the specific criteria it uses — as well as the details on its decisions as the state starts to reopen.

Forcing a court fight for this info, when an orderly reopening depends on maximum transparency, is just perverse.

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