Coronavirus News: Beautiful weather sends New Yorkers into the parks

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With temperatures soaring into the 70s and bright sunny skies, New Yorkers donned their face coverings, left their homes and headed for the park.

The start of the city's open streets initiative coinciding with a beautiful spring day. The first seven miles of streets that are closed to vehicles began on Saturday.

By the end of the month, some 40 miles will be shut off to traffic; all designed to allow extra space for social distancing.

Police dispatched 1,000 officers this weekend to enforce social distancing and a ban on congregating in public spaces.

Officers set out on foot, bicycles and cars to break up crowds and remind those enjoying the weather of public health restrictions requiring they keep 6 feet away from others.

"I believe with the warm weather people will come outside," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday. "You can't stay indoors all the time. People will come outside and that's great, go for a walk. But respect the social distancing and wear a mask."

Here is a list of the streets that will be closed to vehicles and open to pedestrians and cyclists this weekend:

4.5 Miles Inside Parks to Ease Crowding
Fort Tryon Park
Callahan-Kelly Park
Flushing Meadows
Grant Park
Forest Hill Park
Silver Lake Park

2.7 Miles of Streets Adjacent to Parks
Williamsbridge Oval
Prospect Park
Court Square
Stapleton Waterfront Park
Carl Schurz Park
Lt. William Tighe Triangle
Highbridge Park

More streets will be closed, sidewalks widened, and additional bike lanes will be added over the course of the next month, the mayor said.

The eventual goal is for 100 miles of city streets to be modified.

The plan focuses on communities hardest hit by the pandemic and also areas that are in need of more social distancing, like around city parks.

The open streets are being sourced from five broad categories: up to 60 miles of streets within and adjacent to parks; up to 20 miles of streets identified in consultation with local precincts, in consultation with Community Boards and other partners; up to 10 miles of streets managed by local partners such as BIDs, block associations, or other civic groups; up to 2.5 miles of widened sidewalks; and up to 10 miles of protected bike lanes.

Open streets will only be in effect for the duration of "NY PAUSE," with the exception of bike lanes.

The New York City Police Department issued 51 summons and made 3 arrests during social distancing enforcement on Saturday, Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

Shea issued a stern warning last week after a series of clashes this week between police officers and members of Orthodox Jewish communities over social distancing.

"We will not tolerate it," Shea said after community members flooded the streets for funeral processions. "You are putting my cops' lives at risk and it's unacceptable."

Enforcement has its limitations when it comes to social distancing, police concede, leaving it up to New Yorkers to play by the rules to help keep infections on the downturn.

"You've got to get voluntary compliance," Benjamin Tucker, NYPD's first deputy commissioner," said last month. Most people are heeding officers' warnings to keep their distance in parks and around essential businesses like grocery stores, Shea said.

But a stark example of non-compliance came Thursday when officers interrupted a crowded funeral procession in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood.

Video posted to social media showed officers in protective masks chasing a minivan and shouting at dozens of people marching behind the van to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk.

On April 18, officers passed out summonses and made arrests at a Bronx parking lot and garage where they found a makeshift nightclub featuring a pool table and bar offering hard liquor and Corona beer, and at a closed Brooklyn barbershop where more than 50 people gathered for a party featuring loud music and gambling.

Two days later officers broke up a "4/20" marijuana holiday celebration staged in the vacant third floor of a building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. Dozens of people, some drawn by social media hype about the party, were given summonses for trespassing.


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