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De Blasio: NYC using gentle touch to keep people out of parks

Runners in Manhattan's Central Park on Friday. Gov.

Runners in Manhattan's Central Park on Friday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday that he gave Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson 24 hours to develop a plan to reduce crowds in public spaces after seeing people pack into New York City parks over the weekend. Credit: Getty Images / Cindy Ord

New York City will try gentle persuasion to keep crowds from congregating in parks and other public spaces — but will bring the hammer down if residents continue ignoring pleas for social distancing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

The mayor said the city will post signs in parks urging people to comply with coronavirus rules, while NYPD officers will issue warnings and disperse crowds if necessary. But de Blasio said the city could close playgrounds and issue citations if necessary. 

“This week is going to be decisive,” de Blasio said during his daily briefing Monday. “We want to see how this is going. We are going to work with the State of New York to figure out what the rules should be for the longer term.” 

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson 24 hours to develop a plan to reduce crowds in public spaces after seeing people pack into city parks over the weekend. The plan will also be implemented in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester, Cuomo said. 

“Whatever I get from New York City, I then want to do in Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk,” Cuomo said Monday. “I don’t want people saying in New York City, ‘Well, I’ll just get in the car and go to Westchester, or get in the car and go to Nassau.’ ”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Suffolk police have been instructed to break up clusters of people and are enforcing compliance with coronavirus rules. 

“We are not the city but the goal is the same," Bellone said, "and that is to make sure that there are not any unnecessary gatherings of groups of any size."

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On Monday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran ordered the immediate closure of all county-operated golf courses. The Town of Oyster Bay also announced Monday it shut down the Honorable Joseph Colby Golf Course in Woodbury. 

“While residents are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and avoid playgrounds, as of [Monday], Nassau County parks remain open for runs, walks, hikes and other informal recreational activity,” Curran said in a statement. 

Earlier Monday, de Blasio said he believed most New Yorkers had heeded calls for social distancing, but he promised to provide the state with a plan to reduce density in New York City parks and playgrounds.

Cuomo was angry Sunday as he described seeing people playing and partying in parks, playgrounds and other public spaces while touring Manhattan and Brooklyn over the weekend. 

The city has already banned team sports in public spaces and revoked permits for large gatherings. NYPD and Parks Department officers are patrolling parks and playgrounds to enforce social distancing.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said police will use patrol car loudspeakers to order large congregations to break up and encourage residents to practice social distancing. The vast majority of the thousands of supermarkets, pharmacies, bars and restaurants visited by police over the weekend are complying with coronavirus rules, Shea said. 

“All New Yorkers need to step up,” Shea said. “It is a matter of life and death.” 

Police on Long Island said most residents and businesses in Suffolk and Nassau counties have also been responsible during the coronavirus crisis.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department did receive 35 reports of businesses and other locations that are not complying with mandatory closures and occupancy limitations since March 18. Five of those businesses were found to be in noncompliance and ordered to vacate the premises but no citations were issued.


 

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