On Wednesday April 1, Governor Cuomo ordered the closure of all New York City playgrounds due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The restriction applies to all gated play spaces, but not to the surrounding parks, which will stay open. Some parents lamented the restriction on outdoor play space, while others believed the order was long overdue.
Prior to this official closure, signs had been posted at playground entrances saying, “CAUTION: Playgrounds have not been sterilized; play at your own risk.” The signs urged people to engage in social distancing by staying at least six feet apart. However, this guideline proved difficult to monitor and even harder to enforce.
Governor Cuomo said, “I warned people that if they didn’t stop the density and the games in the playgrounds — you can’t play basketball, you can’t come in contact with each other — that we would close the playgrounds.”
Mark D. Levine, the Chair of the New York City Council Health Committee called the order a “difficult — but necessary — move.” He added that “The closure does not include parks outside of playgrounds. These are still important as places for solo exercise. But it is extremely important that you remain six feet away from anyone not in your household.”
The day before Cuomo’s announcement, Mayor Bill De Blasio had said he’d be closing down ten playgrounds where people were not adhering to social distancing rules. “Playgrounds that had crowding multiple times, they will be shut down,” he said. However, as the New York death toll from COVID-19 rose to 1,941 on Wednesday, most people agreed that Governor Cuomo was right in his decision to have all New York City playgrounds closed.
In fact, many people were surprised that it took him so long to do so. One Twitter user wrote, “Even here in Melbourne, where only a few people have died, they closed the playgrounds a week ago.” Another expressed shock that even Oklahoma closed its playgrounds before a viral hotspot like New York City.
While most people agreed that the order was overdue, they were also sympathetic to children who now lacked an outdoor play area. One Twitter user said the new restrictions would be “Really tough on kids and caretakers.” Others said, that they were “appalled” this step wasn’t taken earlier, but were forcing themselves to remember that, “The vast majority of those kids probably don’t have yards to play in.”
The good news for New York families is that city parks, such as Prospect Park and Central Park, remain open. However, as the weather gets warmer and more and more New Yorkers step outside their apartments, the parks will likely become more crowded. It may become difficult if not impossible to maintain the six foot social distancing rule. Because of that, many advocates are calling for the Mayor to close down city streets and create safe, uncrowded spaces for families to spend time outside.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for biking, walking and public transit in New York City, said in a statement: “With the closure of 2,067 playgrounds, every neighborhood in the city is losing critical open space…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.”
Click here for ideas on how to have fun with kids this weekend without ever leaving the house!