SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- Suffolk County officials are making plans in hopes that summer tourists from New York City who fled the coronavirus stay on Long Island after Labor Day.
Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone, Town of Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Town of East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, and Discover Long Island President/CEO Kristen Jarnagin were joined by merchants at a press conference Thursday to discuss preparations being made for those who will be remaining in the Hamptons and East End after the summer tourism season ends.
They expect thousands will make seasonal tourist hotspots their new permanent home, and they are encouraging seasonal businesses to keep their doors open.
According to recent reports, over 420,000 New York City residents have fled the five boroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic, making their summer residence in places like Long Island their full-time home.
Traditionally, hotels, restaurants, cafes and other businesses are seasonal and close after Labor Day weekend.
Merchants have seen a huge spike in traffic from New York City residents this spring and summer, and they say hotels have been sold out due to them staying full time.
With so many New Yorkers able to work from home-and several Manhattan private schools unwilling to reopen-enrollment in Hamptons schools is expected to climb.
Bellone believes the area can handle the influx of new residents.
"You can check out any time you like, but we don't want you to leave," Bellone said.
However, many elected leaders and business owners are concerned about the East End's new long-term residents and the closure of seasonal businesses.
Home sales on Long Island have spiked more than 55% in Suffolk County as former-city dwellers seek property and more space for remote work.
Realtor Phil O'Connell says the market is booming.
"When COVID first hit, those first 10 days, it was like crickets," O'Connell said. "And then, it's not like somebody turned on the hose. It's like somebody just took the dam away and everything started to flow."
They say Labor Day is no longer a time to say goodbye, and they are now working with business owners to train unemployed or under-employed so they can replace migrant summer workers.
They will also help supply PPE to businesses.
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