By Steve Gosset–
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the local economy and upend everyday life, Westchester County has launched an initiative that aims to give residents and visitors a sense of safety and security as they go out to eat, shop and play.
The initiative, called Westchester With Care, has enlisted dozens of businesses to pledge to take several steps, many now long familiar to shoppers and diners, to reassure would-be patrons that all sanitary guidelines are being followed. It comes at a time when the rivertowns—particularly Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow—would normally be bustling with Halloween tourists who are largely absent this year because of COVID-19.
The pledge commits businesses to:
- Wear face coverings
- Adhere to state and federal cleaning guidelines
- Limits on capacity to maintain social distancing
- Make hand sanitizer or hand washing available when possible
- Regular wellness checks on employees
“As we all adjust to a new normal, Westchester’s economic recovery will depend on our ability to draw people back to the businesses that make our County so vibrant and appealing,” said Natasha Caputo, the county’s tourism director, whose office oversees the Westchester With Care initiative.
Among the local businesses that have taken the pledge are Brrzaar frozen yogurt in Irvington, DoubleTree by Hilton Tarrytown, Sheraton Tarrytown and Springhill Suites Tarrytown Westchester.
Brooke Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Marriott, the parent company of Sheraton and Springhill Suites, declined to say how much business is down in 2020, though she noted the hotels’ occupancy rate last October was near 90%.
“The hotels look forward to the festive season and are, as always, committed to providing the best possible guest service, experience and atmosphere possible, while addressing the unique concerns of this time,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman added that more guests are deciding at the last minute whether to travel, with many bookings being made a day or two before a visit.
Travel is also being limited by capacity constraints. Among the destinations normally popular with visitors this time of year are The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, and Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Irvington, both operated by Pocantico Hills-based Historic Hudson Valley, part of Westchester With Care.
The Blaze, which last year attracted 180,000 visitors, has reduced capacity by two-thirds to allow for social distancing. Sunnyside is open for limited hours on weekends only.