New York City

Hundreds Pack Queens Street in Defiance of Social Distancing Rules

Mayor de Blasio promised increased enforcement in Astoria after hundreds were seen partying in streets Friday night

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Unmasked and in clear defiance of the New York's social distancing rules, a crowd of several hundred people filled streets in Queens Friday night, overwhelming police and leaving a mess in their wake.

Video of the nighttime party shows people lining Steinway Street in Astoria, packed from sidewalk to sidewalk. New York City police officers responding to the scene were vastly outnumbered and unable to enforce safety measures.

"In the 52 years that I've lived in Astoria, never in my life have I seen it like this," said Chris Biancaniello. Neighbors like Biancaniello worry the late-night partying could continue.

The crowds caught the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio Saturday, who promised increased enforcement in Astoria following Friday night's crowds.

"We’ll be out in Astoria and across the city tonight to make sure restaurants are doing their part to keep their diners and their workers safe," de Blasio tweeted.

A community clean-up in Astoria has been scheduled for Sunday at 9 a.m. Attendees have been asked to wear a mask.

The partying could threaten area businesses that face a new 3-strike rule from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who this week threatened to close anyone down for repeated COVID violations.

In total, Cuomo said the state had looked at more than 5,000 restaurants in downstate New York and found "many cases of a failure to comply."

He invoked new regulations Thursday to better promote compliance. First, any bar or restaurant that receives three COVID protocol violations will be closed. Single egregious violations can also result in immediate shutdown. Second, those establishments can only serve people alcohol if those people also order food.

“We allowed outdoor dining. We never allowed outdoor drinking” and partying crowds, Cuomo emphasized Friday. De Blasio, on the other hand, maintained the city hadn’t seen any “really profound problem with compliance.”

”It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, it’s selfish, it’s unacceptable, it’s also illegal," Cuomo said of ongoing violations. "If we do not enforce compliance, the virus will spread. It is that simple."

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York state dropped to 743 and 11 more people died, Cuomo said Saturday.

Daily statewide statistics show New York with 754 newly confirmed cases, representing 1.08% of all tests performed. The number of people hospitalized Friday was down 22 from the previous day.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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