Play-grounded: Governor orders all city playgrounds to close

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Photo by Mike Groll/Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

All playgrounds in the city will be closed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, because young New Yorkers have consistently failed to keep six feet apart from each other, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

“You still see too many situations with too much density by young people,” Cuomo said. “I’ve said this 100 different ways, the compliance is still not where it should be.”

Parks will remain open, however, allowing quarantined New Yorkers some space to breathe, the state’s commander-in-chief said.

“Use the open space in a park, walk around, get some sun, great,” he said. “No density, no basketball games, no close contact, no violation of social distancing, period. That’s the rule.”

It is not clear when exactly the play havens will shutter, according to New York City Parks Department Spokeswoman Crystal Howard, who said the agency is still awaiting Cuomo’s executive order to work out the details.

The gubernatorial power move overrides Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Tuesday order to close 10 playgrounds where law enforcement consistently found people violating social distancing, including four in Brooklyn. Hizzoner had noted that, in most playgrounds, people were complying with the health guidelines.

Cuomo said that he spoke to Council Speaker Corey Johnson prior to his announcement, who has previously called for de Blasio to close the playgrounds altogether, for fear of youngsters spreading the highly-contagious virus among themselves before bringing it home.

“I’ve spoken to Speaker Johnson in New York City, who feels very strongly about this, who did from day one,” Cuomo said.

While the city and state leaders originally planned to keep the playgrounds open by using police officers and Parks police as enforcers, Cuomo said that this had not worked in keeping New York’s youngest apart from each other.

“We agreed initially with the mayor that we would try compliance and the mayor was going to try to use the NYPD to enforce compliance. Social distancing in playgrounds, it is still a problem,” he said.

New Yorkers breaking social distancing rules will face fines of up to $500 by the Police Department, de Blasio said Sunday, which follows a state-wide ban on gatherings and a mandate that people practice social distancing.