NYC to Close All Playgrounds, Extends Street Closures and Alt Side Suspension

The push for enhanced measures comes as officials warn that the apex of the virus is expected to hit in New York in late April

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed all NYC playgrounds for noncompliance with social distancing, citing density concerns at multiple locations
  • Streets have been closed to vehicular traffic in several boroughs as part of a pilot plan to help control density
  • New York City remains the epicenter of the nation's COVID-19 outbreak

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in March that all New York City playgrounds would be closed due to ongoing issues regarding density at the locations.

Just a day earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 10 playgrounds would be shut down for noncompliance with social distancing measures, and threatened more could be closed too. It appears Cuomo beat him to the punch.

City Hall agreed with the governor's decision to shutter all 2,067 playgrounds for the time being, saying a statement that as the weather warms up, "we must act clearly to limit any possibility of crowding. We know this will be painful for many families, but we must put the health of New Yorkers first."

The playgrounds had been a pain point for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said the last several days that the city has "thus far been unsuccessful" in ensuring social distancing at those locations.

Eighty basketball courts across the city (out of 1,700 found at city parks) have already had hoops or rims removed because of crowding. Gatherings of any number or nature have been banned regionally. In the city, the NYPD is now enforcing social distancing with fines up to $500, the mayor says.

Earlier in the week, the city extended its street closure pilot plan through the end of the weekend, shuttering streets in four boroughs to vehicular traffic to give pedestrians more fresh air space while encouraging social distancing.

The following streets will be closed to vehicular traffic through Sunday, April 5, the mayor's office said: 

  • Manhattan: Park Ave, between 28th and 34th
  • Brooklyn: Bushwick Ave, Johnson to Flushing
  • Queens: 34th Ave, 73rd St to 80th St
  • Bronx: Grand Concourse, between E. Burnside and 184th

Street closure hours continue from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. NYPD personnel will be onsite to ensure pedestrian safety and that social distancing protocols are being followed. Generally, thru traffic is allowed on cross streets during closure hours. Pickups and drop-offs are completed at corners/cross streets. 

In the Bronx along Grand Concourse, service roads will remain open. Parked cars can remain in place, and the bus route will continue to run on service roads and thru traffic will also be allowed, including trucks/deliveries. 

Additional sites are being considered for this pilot, the city has said, but details on those weren't immediately made public. Meanwhile, de Blasio said that alternate side parking would be suspended June 8-26.

Due to the playground being closed, some advocates are calling for more streets to be closed off so families and others have areas to be outdoors.

"Just as every family in New York deserves access to a nearby playground in ordinary times, this crisis demands rapid action to create an extensive network of emergency open streets, accessible to more New Yorkers," read a statement from the groups Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York. "With 6,000+ miles of streets in New York City, there is a lot of room to build on the 1.6 mile open streets pilot that Mayor de Blasio launched."

The groups also called on residents to close some streets themselves, using the same system the city has that allows for street closures for block parties.

Any new measures to reduce crowding in New York City are complicated because of the sheer density of the city itself. The city has more than 8.3 million people, according to U.S. Census data, with a density of more than 27,000 residents per square mile. That dwarfs the next-most-dense city, San Francisco, which has 17,000 people per square mile.

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