Mayor Bill de Blasio is slamming the brakes on briefly-lived street closures instituted to give recreationists an alternative to parks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pilot, which closed a total of seven blocks across four boroughs did not attract enough New Yorkers “to justify the NYPD presence,” which involved no less than 80 officers citywide, City Hall Deputy Press Secretary Jane Meyer said in an email Monday.
The NYPD has struggled to maintain full force during the pandemic. As of Saturday, 18 percent of uniformed officers — around 6,700 total — were out sick due to either viral symptoms or exposure to the virus.
“The brave men and women of the NYPD never back away from a challenge when the safety of New Yorkers is at stake,” Meyer said in a statement. “We are suspending this pilot because we must protect them like they are protecting us, and not enough New Yorkers are utilizing this program to justify its continuation at this point in time.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed the city to create the open streets pilot after New Yorkers dangerously packed city parks multiple weekends in a row.
The street closures on segments of Park Avenue in Manhattan, Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, 34th Avenue in Queens and the Bronx’s Grand Concourse began March 27 and operated for nine hours daily.
Meyer said the city is “reviewing other innovative ways” to provide New Yorkers open space that allows for the level of social distancing recommended to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi, whose group pushed for the street closures, said the city did not need to rely on uniformed cops to make them happen.
“They need to design the streets with temporary design measures so they are more self-reinforcing. That can be with barricades, it can be with temporary street furniture like large planters,” Conner DiAquoi said.
“Obviously enforcement or monitoring is needed, but that doesn’t have to be the high-level personnel that they’ve been using. They don’t need armed police officers doing that.”