Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening in New York City finally resulted in the gates of citywide playgrounds being swung wide open for children, much to the elation of their parents.
The reopening settled a very contentious chapter in the COVID-19 re-openings in which some communities openly protested and in some cases, cut the chains off of the playgrounds. These were both in Midwood and Williamsburg, where some leaders in those communities openly criticized the mayor for not allowing children to play safely.
Some of those leaders, including Councilman Kalmon Yeager, state Senator Simcha Felder openly cut the chains on playgrounds in defiance of the mayor. No actions were taken against them, according to police officials.
But Monday, all playgrounds were open and parents were overjoyed to have a place for their children to play in safety and with other children. Parks employees were meanwhile giving out face masks, with only some of the people in the park actually using them.
In Diana Ross Playground on Central Park West, children happily played on the gyms. Alex Sorin came with his five children to play in the playground.
Alex came with his five children from Brooklyn to walk through Central Park. His children were eager to get into the playground.
“Finally, they would be at the gate and want to go in,” Sorin said. “It’s great and they really need it. They need to exercise to be free, and be in a natural environment. It’s really great to be in here.”
At Madison Square Playground, children climbed the slides, including mom Charlotte Kooikor with her son William, 2, who refuses to wear a mask.
“Yes, we are definitely happy to be back – finally,” said Kooikor as she applied hand sanitizer to her child’s hands as he would bang on the gate to get in.”We are so happy that everything is opening up again.”
At Kolbert Playground in Midwood, Brooklyn, the park was filled with children, though few actually socially distanced, and nobody wore a face mask.
“It’s always a good thing,” said one parent who said he was at the park last week cutting the chains with elected leaders. “This is our park and our children need it. They can’t continue to play on the dangerous streets. This is our place of safety.”
Heshy Tischler, an Orthodox Jewish radio talk show host and activist, was one of those who cut locks on playgrounds and led the fight to re-open sleep away camps by holding massive protests in communities in a march through Williamsburg.
“It took too long and the Parks Department is still torturing us,” Tischler said. “They are now open, but they are not cleaning out the parks even though they have their budget. They don’t seem to care. But you go to Bay Parkway and 75th – it’s open and it’s not fair.”
He said he was happy that children with special needs will have their schools re-opened on June 29. But he said, “it just took too long to open the parks.”