23 Jun Q&A With Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff
How is Sullivan County doing these days? How badly has Corona affected Sullivan County?
It was hit quite hard. All of the restaurants and stores were closed. It impacted the economy, employment, and stores not able to pay sales tax. It’s quite a blow; it’s a small community to start with.
What is allowed to be open this summer? Home Depot, Walmart, and stores like that have been open. Restaurants are now allowed to have outdoor dining if the tables are spaced 6 feet apart. The group at the table can sit without masks and can dine in close proximity. Grocery stores, food stores, hardware, and essential stores have been open. In terms of summer camps, the governor has allowed day camps, but not sleepaway camps.
Are summer residents welcome this summer to Sullivan County?
Yes, as far as I’m concerned, absolutely.
Over the last five summers, how many summer guests would you say come up to Sullivan County, on average, every summer? Somewhere in the ballpark of 250,000 people.
Are you expecting the same amount of people in Sullivan County this summer?
I think we’re going to get a pretty big rush. A lot of people want to get out of the city because of Covid, rioting, and demonstrations. I think people are looking to get out of the city and go somewhere peaceful where they can get their families out of the congestion.
Do you believe that entertainment places like Kartrite, Holiday Mountain, and Kiamesha Bowling Alley will be allowed to open anytime this summer?
If they follow guidelines, they’ll be allowed to open in stages with limitations.
Are pools allowed to be open already in Monticello?
Yes. They’ve given permits for that.
Are the public parks, like Morningside Park, open right now?
I believe they have been reopened with social distancing restrictions.
How will the police upstate enforce social distancing?
We’re trying to stay out of that, as that’s really the Board of Health’s jurisdiction. We don’t really have any authorization to do any of those things. We talked about it and we’ll go out and talk to businesses and counsel but if it comes down to enforcement, we’ll either be contacting state police or the Board of Health for those kinds of violations.
Has there been any rioting in Sullivan County?
No. We’ve had multiple demonstrations in Monticello, Liberty, Livingston Manor, and Roscoe. So far it’s been peaceful; people just venting their frustrations and saying their piece. So far, there has not been any violence or property damage.
Are you expecting any anti- Semitism as a result of all of this rioting upstate?
I have not heard, in conjunction with the riots, about any protests regarding religion. All the protests have been about Black Lives Matter and their problem with the police. I haven’t heard any grievances on anything other than that. We haven’t had any rioting, only protests, and the police have been at those protests.
What is your opinion about all these politicians saying that they want to cut police budgets?
I think it’s a very poor idea. I think it’s a lot of people pandering to the crowd because of the rioting. I think any legislation that they need to do on this needs to be well thought out with all the players at the table; community leaders, religious leaders, people with grievances, legislators, police, judges, district attorneys. They all need to sit down and talk through these problems and not have a knee jerk reaction that is going to be harmful instead of helpful.
Sullivan County just opened a new jail. Please tell everyone how the transition has been going?
I am thrilled. The inmates and our workers were in horrible conditions. There was no air conditioning in the old jail and it would sometimes get up to 90-95 degrees. They were working in those jails with PPE and because of Covid they were locked down, which wasn’t good; the inmates had nothing to do and the corrections officers were down in the kitchen wearing PPE, washing pans, mopping down floors and doing everything they could to keep Covid at bay and control it. They didn’t complain about it; just doing what they had to do. So getting them into a climate controlled, well-lit environment with clean air is a thrill. I’m thrilled to death that they’re in this type of facility that they have deserved for years. When someone is in a tough situation and doesn’t complain, that’s who you want to help out. That’s those people. I’m so thrilled that they’re in the new facility. There have been some mechanical problems that’ll flush out, but you can see on their faces that they’re thrilled to solve those problems. But they’re in such a tremendous facility. It’s a beautiful building and they’re so happy to be there.
Are there any frum inmates?
Do you enjoy being the Sheriff in Sullivan County? Yes I do.
How many years have you been sheriff?
Coming up on 15.
What do you like to do when you relax?
I really don’t. I’m either at work or home looking out for the kids. Just work.
What’s the best compliment someone ever gave you?
I think that they met my children without me there and said they were very polite and conducted themselves very properly. I’m very proud of that.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
Just glad they’re coming up. If there are any problems that develop, contact our office whether the problems have to do with our office or not, and the undersheriff and I will try to help you out in any way. And as far as law enforcement, absolutely call us if there are any problems. Call us and we will respond. Our phone number is 845-794-7100. Have a great & safe summer!