Welcome to N.Y. — papers please

When I read that the genius Mayor Bill de Blasio is setting up checkpoints at Noo Yawk tunnels, bridges,  and airports today, it reminded me of the “old” days when traveling in Western Europe required travelers to stop and identify themselves at the frontier.

The “papers, please” stops, let’s say between France and Germany, would be pleasant and perfunctory, at least to holders of the green U.S. passports, which then were the world-wide Open Sesame.

Today, a blue U.S. passport actually bans you from Western Europe, because of the coronanova, which is the reason de Blasio is sealing off America’s largest city. The blockade is to corral visitors from 35 “high virus” states. (Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not among them.)

By and large, I think the European Union has been a boon for most of its members, but each had to surrender a little of its sovereignty. It turns out it was more than “a little” for Britain, which decided in a close vote by the people to withdraw in what was called its Brexit. That secession was easier than that when the South left our union, precipitating a civil war (and a much later war over statues). 

When you passed a checkpoint, you slipped from one language to another. The change from French to German was abrupt; this was before almost everyone spoke English and Google Translate. You also had to switch from francs to deutschmarks, although dollars were accepted almost everywhere. National currency was fun, it was a cheap souvenir, and came with a sense of place, unlike the unlovable euro.  

It can be argued that New York City — my birthplace — has its own langwich, but it’s more in pronounciation than meaning. Maybe the diversity-obsessed de Blasio will order everyone to speak something other than English, the tongue of oppression. (Sarcasm is fun.)

Esperanto, perhaps. 

The real problem isn’t getting into Noo Yawk. It’s getting out. With taxes that are expected to skyrocket, along with shootings, and loud nightly marches, long-time residents are rushing for the exits. You know that some people already call Philly New York’s sixth borough. That will accelerate, especially among the rich.

Is that a problem? Did you happen to see the video  of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo begging the wealthy to come back to The City from their summer (and maybe permanent) homes in the Hamptons, Connecticut and the Hudson Valley?

“We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!,” he said. “I’ll give you a hand job,” he did not say, but might have, in his desperation. You can screw the rich just so long before they cash in and move.

But if you are planning to drive to the city that never sleeps, don’t expect a cheery smile at the border. Instead, be prepared to be quizzed, to fill out a questionnaire handed out by sheriffs, and to be warned about a quarantine you must observe or face up to a $10,000 fine. 

Welcome to the Empire State. Bring money, face masks, and a strong stomach.

13 thoughts on “Welcome to N.Y. — papers please”

  1. Good Morning Stu,
    When I saw that you were writing about New York I had hoped that you would comment about the passing of Pete Hamill the last of the big city columnist. A newspaper man like yourself. I miss that style of writing, luckily I can read you for now.
    Good Bless and take care,

    1. I knew Hamill slightly. He was a giant. In addition to born talent, he was helped by being Irish — and booze. He eventually quit booze. 🙂

  2. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & Kelley,

    I think Kelley gets it right, and I share the sentiment.

    It looks like there will be no general solution until we get an effective vaccine.

    I’ve followed Governor Cuomo and his measures against the epidemic; and I thought it mostly admirable, likewise Governor Wolf. They’ve both done a pretty good job, all things considered; and NYC had a terrible mess to deal with at the start of the problems.

    Watch out, though, for the excessively bossy types. In the end, our going along with the various restrictions will depend on “the consent of the governed.”

    H.G. Callaway

    Like you and many others, I remember the “funny money” originating in those foreign countries. I have several mason jars filled with coins of those realms.
    Then there is the Empire State, and the Keystone State and mostly, there is the state of panic, disillusionment and despair. Sorry to say, very little hope is sen shining through the storm clouds.
    Without going too deep into politics, most states have reaped what they have sown. Consequently, N Y and PA are in for a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do taxes triple next year ? Quadruple ?sic. Let’s blame President Trump ! ( I tried to limit the politics….)

  4. I was under the impression that the Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to travel unimpeded. Silly me.

  5. There will be an exodus…feels like it may already have happened…and we will be another Detroit. No offense, Detroit!

  6. The good side of Covid-19 one might say, is the revelation of some terrible elected officials! Maybe it will help Trump Nov. 3rd.
    Also, it’s an opportunity for Billy Joel to write some new lyrics to his, “New York State Of Mind.” 😁
    I’d buy it!!

  7. Remember the threatening statement in many WWII movies, used to get cooperation from recalcitrant ex pats? The line was always delivered with a heavy German accent, “You have, perhaps, relatives in Germany?” I now hear the line this way, “You have, perhaps, relatives in Manhattan?”

  8. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Benedict & readers,

    The power of the states to enforce quarantine restrictions arises from the 10th Amendment. Its a “residual” power of the states:

    The fundamental right of a government to make all necessary laws. In the United States, state police power comes from the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives states the rights and powers “not delegated to the United States.” States are thus granted the power to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public.
    —end quotation


    The states have some powers that the federal government lacks. That is one reason, for example, why the deployment of federal police against the rioters in Portland, OR was so controversial. They have since been replaced by Oregon state police –protecting the federal court building. (Apparently a deal worked out with the state governor?)

    The City of New York, is of course, a creation of the State of New York. That is where the city’s police powers derive. In consequence, the state government could possibly modify the city’s regulation on the epidemic. On the other hand, the federal government is in charge of the regulation of “interstate commerce.” Someone could bring a suit in the federal courts against NYC’s restrictions on interstate travel.

    My sense of the matter is that is would take a long time, and most or many would hope that the epidemic would be over before the case was decided. Again, the courts might well decide that the NYC restrictions are lawful, so long as they, in fact, protect “the welfare, safety, and health of the public.” (They don’t, for instance, involving seeking some commercial advantage.)

    None of this should be taken as an endorsement or judgment of the wisdom of NYC’s particular restrictions on interstate travel. Its more a matter of the legal basis.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. Thank you for that clear and concise explanation. I now have a better understanding of the legality of the NY mayor’s action.

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