Coronavirus News: Hoboken plans to reopen city parks, open streets

HOBOKEN, New Jersey (WABC) -- The city of Hoboken is moving forward with a plan to gradually reopen select city parks beginning on Friday.

On Tuesday, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the Office of Emergency Management announced the first phase of a gradual reopening of Hoboken municipal and county parks which will take effect on Friday, May 8.

With the announcement, Hoboken is now breaking away from some other North Hudson mayors in a coalition formed last week who have decided to keep their parks closed.

"I thank the coalition of North Hudson Mayors for agreeing to delay the opening of their municipal parks this past weekend and appreciate that they understand the need for Hoboken to gradually open up parks this week," Bhalla said.

The mayor said he based the decision on the recent data demonstrating a downward trend in new, confirmed cases, and the important benefits of outdoor activities on mental health.

"To have more space to go for a run, a walk, is great," resident Megan Henes said.

Social distancing of at least six feet will be required at all times and face masks will need to be worn, without exception, at the following parks:

Church Square Park
Elysian Park
Southwest Park
Stevens Park
Columbus Park (Hudson County park)
7th and Jackson Park and Plaza
Harborside Park
Maxwell Park
Pier A Park
Shipyard Park
Shoprite Green Plaza
Sinatra Park amphitheater
14th Street Viaduct between Grand and Adams Streets (Hudson County Park)

As tempting as it might be with the weather getting warmer, officials insisted that congregating in groups and organized sports in the parks are prohibited.

"If these critical precautions are observed, we can keep our parks open for the long-term and consider opening additional open spaces," Bhalla said. "If these rules are not respected and the safety of our residents is jeopardized by residents congregating in groups, we will need to revisit whether or not parks can remain open."

Residents like Luis Perez agrees, saying that people need the parks open, but also need the parks to be safe and cautious.

"We're asking people to follow the same rules but giving more space to do so," Hoboken Councilperson Emily Jabbour said.

Officials are encouraging residents to use parks during early morning, late afternoon or early evening hours to avoid peak periods in which a higher volume of people can be expected.

All playgrounds, athletic fields and courts, restrooms, gymnasiums, dog parks, spray areas, gazebos, and community gardens in the select parks will remain closed until further notice, reflecting guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hoboken is also launching its own "Open Street" pilot program this weekend.

Jefferson Street will be closed to traffic between 3rd Street and 11th Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

"This space will help reduce the stress in our parks and waterfront, with the goal of making it safer for outdoor activity with the warmer weather," said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. "While we continue to advocate for residents to stay at home whenever practically possible, I recognize the mental health benefits of fresh air and outdoor space, and I'm confident this space will promote responsible outdoor activity."

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