Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an initiative on Thursday to distribute over 100,000 free face masks at dozens of parks throughout the city — yet, southern Brooklyn was entirely excluded from the effort, leaving some locals fuming at the apparent snub.
“Yet again, City Hall forgets that southern Brooklyn exists,” state Sen. Andrew Gounardes told Brooklyn Paper. “With so much open space in southern Brooklyn, including the largest park in all of Brooklyn — Marine Park — it’s outrageous to be shut out of City Hall’s mask distribution program.”
Hizzoner claims that the locations, where masks will be distributed between May 2 and May 5, were selected based on a perceived higher number of visitors, as well as their location in communities that are considered heavily impacted by novel coronavirus.
“We’re going to focus on parks where we expect a lot of people to be, we’re going to focus on communities that have been the hardest hit by the disease,” de Blasio said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, residents of large swaths of southern Brooklyn — such as Brighton Beach, Gravesend, and parts of Sheepshead Bay that are hotspots for the virus — would have to travel several miles to the nearest distribution outpost in Prospect Park.
In addition to Brooklyn’s Backyard, Sunset Park and East New York’s Linden Park are the southernmost locations selected for mask distribution — which one Coney Island resident pointed out are out-of-reach to a large chunk of southern Brooklyn’s population, who tend to skew older.
“Even on a bike, those locations are very far,” said Brian Granoff. “There is a higher senior population in southern Brooklyn and why should they have to get in their cars to get a mask?”
Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods have also been experiencing issues with crowd control, such as in Brighton Beach where fruit merchants have continued to attract large crowds and block sidewalks with their operations.
Granoff, a lifelong resident of America’s Playground, feels the exclusion of his community in city programs is a consistent theme, and thinks it’s high time that the city start sharing the wealth.
“I think that the masks are one reflection of that, but also our street infrastructure. We have very few protected bike lanes,” he said. “It feels like there is not as much urgency when it comes to southern Brooklyn.”
The sentiment was echoed by Councilman Justin Brannan, who mused about potentially comical reasons that City Hall constantly snubs the area.
”Sometimes I think there must be a large fern or maybe a bookcase blocking southern Brooklyn on the big map inside City Hall,” tweeted the Bay Ridge councilman.
Masks will be distributed at 12 locations throughout the borough during a scheduled time from Saturday to Tuesday. Locations and times are available here.