Skip to main content

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor appoints Batavian Kastenbaum to Genesee Community College Board of Trustees

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee Community College Board of Trustees tonight will welcome its newest member – Batavia native Diana Kastenbaum, who has been appointed to the eight-member board by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Kastenbaum, chief executive officer of Pinnacle Manufacturing Co. Inc., a Batavia business for more than 45 years, was notified of the gubernatorial appointment on June 1.

She will join the Board of Trustees for the first time tonight at the college’s Annual Meeting.

“We are excited to welcome Diana Kastenbaum to our Board of Trustees," said GCC President James Sunser, Ed.D. “Diana's experience as a local business leader is vital to our goal of supporting workforce development in our community via talented GCC graduates.

“We thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for making this appointment to our Board.”

Kastenbaum said she is thrilled to have been selected and is eager to help the board advance its mission.

“I’m very honored and feel very privileged that the governor chose me,” Kastenbaum said. “I’m very excited about working on the board. It’s certainly the biggest appointment I’ve ever had.”

Kastenbaum will complete the term of Laura Bohm, who relocated to Rochester. The term ends in June 2022, and at that time she would be eligible for reappointment.

A graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she earned her bachelor of arts degree, Kastenbaum took the helm of her family business in 2014. She is one of only a handful of women CEOs in the manufacturing field of tool and die casting in North America.

Additionally, she owned her own tech consulting company for 25 years.

Kastenbaum has been active on the political scene, including a 2016 campaign as the Democratic candidate for the 27th Congressional District seat. She also has served as vice president of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council Board of Directors and in the same position of the Landmark Society of Genesee County.

She is married to actor and comedian Hiram Kasten. The couple has a daughter, Millicent, who is a student at Fordham University School of Law in New York City.

Cuomo announces school districts can allow students go without masks outdoors, but not indoors

By Press Release

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today, June 7, announced that school districts can choose to lift the requirement that their students must wear masks outdoors. Guidance on mask use indoors remains in place.

This change aligns New York State's guidance on schools with CDC guidance on summer camps, where even unvaccinated students are not currently required to wear masks outdoors.

"The numbers show that the risk of transmission by children is extremely low, especially in this state, which has an extremely low positivity rate," Governor Cuomo said. "We spoke with the CDC, and since they're not going to change their guidance for several weeks in New York State, we're going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children.

"We'll leave that up to the local school district and we spoke to the CDC, which has no objection. It's very important that people understand the logic between these decisions and that they're rational and based on the science and the data. We have a disconnect right now between the school guidance and the camp guidance, and it's important to rectify it because if people don't think the rules are logical, then they're not going to want to follow the rules."

On May 24, Governor Cuomo announced that based on the current COVID-19 trajectory, all New York State schools will reopen for full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year beginning in September.


Also today, Governor Cuomo announced that when New York State reaches 70 percent vaccinated, he will remove COVID restrictions and guidance (except for certain settings such as healthcare, congregate settings, schools and mass transit). 

State's lifting of restrictions on food, alcohol purchases is a welcome sight for restaurateurs, bar owners

By Mike Pettinella

Updated, 7:30 p.m., with comments from Henry Wojtaszek, Batavia Downs Gaming:

For more than a year, restaurants, bars, bowling centers and similar establishments have had to operate under strict COVID-19 mandates from New York State, including the stipulation that patrons must purchase food when having an alcoholic beverage.

Well, judging from today’s announcements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature, some of those executive orders are about to become part of history.

State lawmakers reported they are pushing to shelve several of the governor's commands, while Cuomo, himself, also said that the 12 a.m. food and beverage service curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining starting on May 17 and for indoor dining locations starting on May 31.

Local reaction to the news indicates that these restrictions went on too long and were counterproductive.

“Serving food with beverage was a total distraction for customers,” said Kent Ewell, owner of O’Lacy’s Irish Pub, 5 School St., Batavia. “It was a very … again, you bend with the law, but you actually sometimes question it.”

But Ewell said that the imposition of a curfew for dining at midnight really doesn’t pertain to a rural area, such as Genesee County.

“A lot of the stuff that gets taken care of is affecting Downstate more than Upstate. Everything is throughout the state, but in Batavia, most of the guidelines announced do not pertain to anybody,” he said. “How many people do you know go out and get a steak at midnight? When they’re saying dining at midnight, that’s mostly New York City or where people are up later and hours are later – maybe in Buffalo there is some of that.”

Ewell: Finding Workers is Another Issue

Still, Ewell said he is glad to see Cuomo relaxing some things.

“I know that every state is different … obviously, I’ve questioned some things throughout this whole pandemic and hopefully soon we will get back to normal,” he said.

He acknowledged that coronavirus mandates limiting hours of operation and halting indoor dining took a toll on his business.

“We’re open from 11 a.m. to midnight but now we’re closed on Sunday and Monday,” he said, adding that it likely will stay that way due to difficulties finding employees.

“I won’t tell you why they’re not working, that’s my own opinion, but everybody is having trouble hiring people. It’s happening in a lot of industries,” he advised. “We’re still open, but financially it has not been a pleasant ride, let me put it that way.”

Cuomo also revealed the lifting (on May 17) of the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result and the end (on May 31) of the curfew for all catered events.

Governor Announces More Changes

Other changes include:

  • The resumption of catered events at residences beginning May 3 above the state's residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks and social distancing.
  • The rethinking of dancing among attendees at catered events to be aligned with neighboring states, starting on May 3. This would replace fixed dance zones for each table with social distancing and masks.
  • Starting May 3, seating at bars will be allowed in New York City, in line with the food services guidance that is in effect statewide.

Sen. Rath: It's About Time

Sen. Ed Rath, NYS Senate District #61, said the easing of these mandates are long overdue.

“While I am extremely happy for our restaurants that these arbitrary mandates are being repealed, it has taken far too long. It should never have had to come to lawsuits and court hearings for our restaurants to be able to operate,” according to his statement. “The industry has struggled for over a year, at no fault of their own, and the state should be doing everything they can to aid them in their recoveries. Instead, we are seeing the state continue to place unnecessary and cumbersome burdens on our restaurants and bars.”

Rath thanked “our amazing restaurants throughout Upstate who have adapted and continued to serve our communities throughout the pandemic.”

“During such a chaotic and stressful year, for many being able to order their favorite dish from their local restaurant was a much-needed sense of normal,” he said.

NYS Restaurant Leader: A Win for the Industry

On a state level, Melissa Fleischut, president and chief executive officer of the New York State Restaurant Association, issued the following statement:

“We’re encouraged by the news that the state legislature plans to eliminate the burdensome mandate that food be purchased with alcohol. This will singlehandedly boost the bottom line for restaurants and bars all over the state, and many have yet to reopen because of this specific requirement. While this is a win for the industry, and one that the New York State Restaurant Association has been pushing for months, this is just one step. Let’s work together to create a plan that details full reopening.”

Cuomo, in his announcement, warned, “To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine. It is the weapon that will win the war and we need everyone to take it, otherwise we risk going backward.”

The governor also said that, starting May 15, gyms and fitness centers outside of New York City will increase from 33-percent to 50-percent capacity, casinos and gaming facilities will increase from 25-percent to 50-percent capacity, and offices will go up from 50-percent to 75-percent capacity.

"We are encouraged that things are moving in the right direction since ... we’ve certainly had our struggles with the state’s rules," said Henry Wojtaszek, president of Western Region Off-Track Betting Corp. "We welcome the ability to have more people on the gaming floor. We are actually installing more games in the next few weeks and will continue to adhere to the state’s guidelines on social distancing and our cleaning schedule."

Hawley says there's no time to waste -- hopes for swift impeachment of Cuomo

By Press Release

A statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“As we begin to work with our colleagues in the Majority to commence our impeachment investigation, I only hope it will move forward both swiftly and sincerely," Hawley said. "The large volume and grave nature of the allegations made against the governor have already made him incapable of leading our state, so this investigation is not one that should be prolonged in any way.

"New Yorkers need their duly elected Legislature more than ever, and the more time we waste with Andrew Cuomo biding his time in office, the more people around the state will hurt due to their inaction. After making an insincere attempt to remove the governor's emergency powers last week, I am hopeful the new information that has come to light about the governor's alleged wrongdoings will spur those in the Majority to join us in doing the right thing this time and move to cleanly and quickly impeach the governor.

"Of course, he has the option to resign as well.”

Safety-first approach is the key to a 'spooktacular' Halloween for trick-or-treaters

By Mike Pettinella


Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s not banning door-to-door trick-or-treating this Halloween (Saturday, Oct. 31), “boys and ghouls” of all ages are being advised to take care to avoid a spread of the coronavirus to their neighbors.

“It is important to remember COVID-19 is still an issue locally and we are also starting flu season,” Public Health Director Paul Pettit said today. “With that in mind it is important to take the following precautions should you and your family choose to participate, barring any local or regional shutdowns of these activities:”

  • New York State is still under the nonessential gathering limits of no more than 50 people, this includes indoor and outdoor activities. This would apply to Halloween parties. Any size gatherings should still adhere to face covering/social distancing requirements.
  • Everyone participating in trick-or-treating should be wearing appropriate face covering that cover both the mouth and nose.
  • Limit the number of hands touching the treats. Make sure those who are handling the treats have carefully washed their hands or sanitized them before touching them. If you wear gloves, be careful not to use your gloved hands to touch other objects, your face, etc.
  • Frequently disinfect any objects that multiple hands may touch such as doorknobs, stair rails, doorbells/knockers, etc.
  • If you or your child/children are experiencing any symptoms – STAY HOME!
  • If you recently tested for COVID-19 or traveled from a restricted state/international travel – STAY HOME!

These are recommendations to help protect those who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and the flu, Pettit said, and are subject to change.

Specific to the City of Batavia, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that all trick-or-treating activities must wrap up by 9 o’clock on Halloween night.

City officials will be issuing a press release concerning safety guidance toward the end of October, he added.

Earlier today, Cuomo, in an interview with News 12 on Long Island, said he didn’t think it was “appropriate” for him to cancel trick-or-treating.

“If you want to go knock on your neighbor’s door, God bless you. If you want to go on a walk with your child through the neighborhood, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t take your child through the neighborhood,” he said. “I’ll give you my advice and guidance, and then you’ll make the decision what you do that night.”

Previously, officials in Los Angeles banned trick-or-treating but then reversed their decision, choosing instead to say they don’t recommend it.

File photo of trick-or-treaters in the City of Batavia, 2018.

Breaking: Cuomo says schools can open

By Mike Pettinella

Update: Aug. 7, 5 p.m. with Elba Superintendent Ned Dale's comments


Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced that schools in New York State can open on time this fall.

The governor reported that the COVID-19 infection rate is low enough to allow all districts in the state to open, and mentioned the state’s success in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

In a telephone press conference, Cuomo called it "great news."

“If you look at our infection rate, we are probably the best in the country right now ... so if anybody can open schools, we can open schools," he reasoned.

The governor later tweeted the following:

"Every region is well below our COVID infection limit, therefore all school districts are authorized to open. If the infection rate spikes, the guidance will change accordingly. School districts are required to submit plans to NYS for review."

He said that there is “significant anxiety” among teachers and parents in taking this step forward, and suggested that district administrators set up three sessions with parents over the next couple weeks.

Last week, about 700 school districts across the state submitted their reopening plans to the state education department outlining how they would reopen schools, with most districts offering "hybrid" plans with students in school on two or three days and out of school -- remote learning -- on two or three days.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said he's pleased with the decision to reopen, but "now the real work begins around implementation and communication regarding some of the requirements involved."

He said that the governor is requiring districts to share more details about remote learning plans (expectations for parents, students and teachers) -- "that's something that we were already working on," he noted -- and to work with their health departments on COVID-19 testing and tracing, and understanding all the related protocols.

"We're excited to get to work and to get our kids back in the building, although, obviously not in the ideal (manner) -- everyday, all the time," he said.

Soler said he hopes that if all goes well, guidance would change to allow the district to "bring more kids in" and is keeping his fingers crossed that a vaccine is developed in the near future.

Some smaller school districts, such as Oakfield-Alabama in our area, have enough space to bring everybody back to the classrooms with masks and social distancing.

"I'm happy with the decision to have schools open, leaving the local decisions to each and every school district, and what's best for their own communities," said O-A Superintendent John Fisgus. "Obviously, he's following his previous metric calculations, being that we're certainly under the threshold of the spread of the COVID. So, I'm glad that he stuck to that and glad that he is leaving the decisions up to the school districts."

Fisgus added that "here in Oakfield, we're going to move forward with our 100-percent in-person learning, five days a week, and we will follow his guidance."

"We already have a task force committee that has met once already back in July. We have another meeting this Monday and the following Monday -- and an opportunity on August 24th at 5 p.m. where I will actually livestream all of this information to our community residents and they will have the opportunity to engage with questions and concerns," he said.

Elba Superintendent Ned Dale said he was glad to see that the governor used the low infection rate to make his determination.

"We will continue to communicate with the parents and staff to ensure a safe and smooth reopening," he said, speaking of the school's hybrid plan. "It is important to note that staff will need training and time to open safely and, similar to other districts, I will be recommending that we adjust our district calendar to reflect this significant need. We will now confirm with every student and parent their choice of returning or staying with a distance learning, as well as revising bus routes to reflect the ability for our students to get to and from school safely."

Gov. Cuomo announces new COVID Rent Relief Program

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced an emergency rental assistance program that will help keep low-income families throughout New York in their homes.

The program, which is designed to reach those individuals and families with the greatest need, will provide direct aid for tenants who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act.

The program is administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal and access to program applications will be available here on Thursday, July 16.

"Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic," Governor Cuomo said. "It's critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening, and the COVID Rent Relief Program reinforces that commitment with direct assistance to those in the greatest need."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Despite the progress we have made in fighting COVID-19, millions of New Yorkers are struggling because of this virus and the economic crisis. Providing direct aid to overburdened renters will help these New Yorkers stay in their homes and be able to make ends meet. I applaud Senator Brian Kavanagh for advancing this legislation, my Senate Democratic Majority for passing it, and Governor Cuomo for signing it into law. While this effort will offer some relief, we know that government needs to step up and provide more support during this difficult time. We are going to keep advancing meaningful legislation to help New Yorkers, and we need the federal government to work with us and provide the resources our state needs."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "For many New Yorkers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the challenges of securing affordable housing even greater. The Assembly Majority has fought tirelessly for years to keep New Yorkers in their homes and in the communities that they helped shape. With many New Yorkers still out of work, we still need assistance from the federal government to help states deal with significant fiscal challenges. We must do everything in our power to help New York families. This rental assistance program, while still not enough to meet the tremendous needs that exist, is a step forward to lifting a financial burden off of our most vulnerable families. We will continue to look to do more to help people remain in their homes during this unprecedented time."

Under the new program, eligible households will benefit from a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords and housing providers. Tenants are not required to repay this assistance. 

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet all of the eligibility requirements: 

  • Must be a renter with a primary residence in New York State. 
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, household income (including unemployment benefits) must be below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, adjusted for household size. Applicants can find the Area Median Income for their county, based on household size, on HCR's website here.
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, the household must have been "rent burdened," which is defined as paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income towards rent.
  • Applicants must have lost income during any period between April 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.
  • The application period will be open for two weeks. Residents can apply any time during the two-week period. 

HCR will prioritize households with greatest economic and social need, accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness. The rental assistance payment will cover the difference between the household's rent burden on March 1, 2020 and the increase in rent burden during the period the household is applying for assistance. Households can apply for up to four months in rental assistance for the months of April through July. The program is open to households that rent apartments, single-family homes, manufactured homes and manufactured home lots. 

Households with at least one household member with U.S. Citizenship or eligible immigration status are qualified to receive the subsidy. Tenants currently receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing are not eligible for RRP assistance.

The COVID Rent Relief Program builds upon Governor Cuomo's efforts to protect New York's renters during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes a statewide moratorium on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions; banning late payments or fees for missed rent payments during the eviction moratorium; and allowing renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.

More information about the COVID Rent Relief Program, including Frequently Asked Questions, is available here.   

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Families and individuals who were already rent burdened, or living paycheck-to-paycheck, were particularly vulnerable to the sudden loss in income that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Cuomo's immediate actions to protect New Yorkers against eviction and foreclosure provided much-needed security during an unimaginable health crisis. The COVID Rent Relief Program builds upon the State's efforts to alleviate the hardship faced by so many tenants with a one-time rental subsidy. By helping our fellow New Yorkers remain secure in their homes, we can continue on our road to economic recovery."

Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan and Brooklyn), chair of the Senate Housing Committee and prime sponsor of the bill, said, "Since this pandemic started, New York has fought back hard to save lives and keep people safe, but we haven't done nearly enough for the many New Yorkers who have been struggling to pay rent and stay in their homes. While we need a lot more funding to cover a much wider range of people, including those currently homeless and those whose immigration status makes it difficult to access other forms of assistance, this program is an important first step toward supporting New Yorkers in need of relief. I thank Commissioner Visnauskas and the diligent staff at HCR for their efforts in launching this program quickly, just four weeks after we passed the Emergency Rent Relief Act."

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Assembly's Housing Committee, said, "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am pleased to see the COVID Rent Relief Program up and running. Tenants and landlords face enormous financial challenges brought about by our ceaseless fight against this virus. Our responsibility to reopen safely must be balanced by the continuing need to fight homelessness and to keep New Yorkers safe in their own homes. By prioritizing households with the greatest need, this program will help enable our recovery while we wait for Congress to act and provide more essential relief."

Representative Nita Lowey said, "The COVID Rent Relief Program, which is made possible with the federal funds I helped secure for New York in the CARES Act, is an important step in providing critical assistance to communities and families that were hardest hit by this pandemic. I commend Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature for taking decisive action to protect renters around the state from eviction who continue to suffer from the financial impact of the economic shutdown. Housing is foundational to health and safety, and I will continue working to secure the federal relief New Yorkers need to ensure our health, safety, and economic security."

Representative José Serrano said, "Affordable housing was a serious issue before this crisis, and it has been exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic. Too many families in the Bronx and elsewhere are struggling to make ends meet, pay their rent, and cover other basic expenses. We need to do everything possible to prevent a housing crisis on top of the public health and economic crises that are ongoing. Made possible thanks to the CARES Act passed in Congress, the COVID Rent Relief Program will provide much needed relief to help those who need it most to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in developing this important program." 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney said, "The COVID Rent Relief Program is a much needed, common-sense approach that will help renters experiencing economic strain brought on by the pandemic. New York State is once again leading the way and the Senate should follow suit by passing the House's Heroes Act, which includes a $100 billion fund for rent relief, and H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act. Nobody should lose sleep worried about how they will keep a roof over their heads, especially during a pandemic. We must continue to take steps to help our nation weather this storm and deliver meaningful relief to the American people when they need it most."

Representative Nydia M. Velázquez said, "So many New Yorkers are struggling right now as a result of the pandemic and they are faced with an unbearable choice between paying rent, keeping their lights on or putting food on the table. The COVID Rent Relief Program will deliver critical assistance but this is just a small part of the overall need. I will continue to fight for additional federal funding to ensure that no New Yorker is forced from their home during an unprecedented health and economic crisis."

Representative Hakeem Jeffries said, "New York has borne the burden of the COVID-19 public health crisis, and our communities have experienced unthinkable pain, suffering and death. As we start to reopen the state carefully, we must ensure that the people and communities with the most need receive assistance to help make their ends meet. The emergency rental assistance program will reach those who are most at risk of losing the roof over their heads. This is an extraordinary crisis, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his extraordinary leadership."

Representative Grace Meng said, "For months, I have led calls for relief to be provided to New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent. I thank the Governor for establishing this program and look forward to doing more to help additional New Yorkers who have been forced to endure this severe financial burden through no fault of their own. But this is a first step forward to solving a major issue and I will continue to use my spot on the House Appropriations Committee, which funds the federal government-to combat the renter crisis. Nobody in our state should be kicked out of their homes due to the coronavirus. I also call on the Senate to follow the House in passing the Heroes Act which contains more funding for rent relief."

Authentically Local