N.Y.C. Councilman Slammed for 'Irresponsible' Thanksgiving Plans

Virginia Chamlee
·4 min read

Council Member Joseph C. Borelli/Facebook

New York City Council member Joe Borelli faced backlash from angry social media users after tweeting earlier this week that he planned to defy his state's social distancing regulations on Thanksgiving.

"I'll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving. My address is public record. Some family will come from (gasp!) New Jersey," Borelli tweeted Wednesday. "Kids will see their grandparents, cousins will play in the yard, sis in law will bring strawberry rhubarb pie, & a turkey will be overcooked."

New York recently rolled out a new spate of rules meant to help limit the spread of a virus that has so far killed 242,000 Americans, according to a New York Times tracker. Those rules limit the number of people who can attend indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences to no more than 10.

Twitter users immediately criticized Borelli's tweet. Purposefully flouting the new rules — which are meant to enhance public safety in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic — was selfish and potentially harmful to others, critics said.

"Premeditated reckless endangerment," wrote one person responding to the tweet.

Others shared spiking positivity rate in Staten Island, the borough Borelli represents.

Still others suggested Borelli's tweet was "performative," and selfish.

Despite the negative backlash, Borelli doubled down on the comments Friday, writing an op-ed in the New York Daily News in which he argued the new regulations go too far.

"Let me be clear about this: Government should have no role in determining how many family members you may lawfully have in your own home," Borelli wrote. "Not even in the midst of a deadly pandemic."

Asked to respond to the criticism, Borelli instead emailed PEOPLE a statement in which he called the mayor and governor "hypocrites."

“The governor and mayor are asking us to limit our own family when they live for free in mansions with their families and a host of cooks, cleaners and servers," Borelli wrote. "They are the same hypocrites who were cheering on, and in the mayor’s case taking selfies with, the massive crowds of hundreds of thousands who just days before the spike in cases took to the streets, many without masks, to celebrate the election results. Perhaps that had more to do with the spike than my dinner that hasn’t happened yet.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was pictured taking selfies with fans celebrating the election last week, though he was outdoors and wearing a mask.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did not attend any small- or large-scale gatherings himself. He has been active on social media, though, sharing tips on lowering the risk of catching the virus for those visiting people indoors.

According to a press release announcing the rules, the limit of 10 is being implemented "due to the recent prevalence of COVID spread resulting from small indoor gatherings [which] have become a major cause of cluster activity across the state."

In his op-ed, Borelli suggested "recommendations are all fine," but "regulations" were something else entirely.

Though he wrote that he won't be adhering to the new COVID-19 regulations during the holidays, he apparently will, however, adhere to other rules meant to enhance public safety: "My family, my house, and, so long as we obey fire and zoning codes, my rules."

In a statement sent to PEOPLE, senior advisor to the governor Rich Azzopardi responded to Borelli's statements.

"‎Nothing says Thanksgiving like putting loved ones in harm's way to own the libs," Azzopardi wrote. "Don't be a Borelli: stay smart this holiday; follow the rules, they're there to keep people from getting sick. Also, socially distance, wear a mask and wash your hands!"