Cuomo rails against NYU, city over college student bash at Washington Square Park

nyu 2 party sept 5 2020
Hundreds of college students partying in Washington Square Park on Sept. 5, 2020 — a big no-no in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Screenshot via Twitter/@datainput)

Hundreds of carefree college students danced the night away at a Washington Square Park party over the Labor Day weekend — and it left Governor Andrew Cuomo fuming Tuesday.

During a press briefing at his Midtown office, Cuomo ripped into New York University security and city government for allowing the Sept. 5 party at the park held among coeds from the nearby East Village campus. In a normal time, this wouldn’t be a problem — but during the era of COVID-19, according to Cuomo, it’s a demonstration of reckless disregard for public safety.

Video circulated on social media shows the big crowd of revelers — many of whom not appearing to wear  masks — dancing to music provided by a DJ in the shadow of the illuminated Washington Square Park arch on Saturday night. 

Reports about the video prompted NYU to launch an investigation.

“We have received reports and videos of large crowds of young people gathering in Washington Square Park last night, with some people not wearing masks or distancing,” said Marc Wais, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs at NYU, in a Sept. 6 email to students. “As I indicated on [Sept. 3], the expectations we have set for NYU students apply both on-campus and off-campus. We are investigating the circumstances from last night and any students who have violated our expectations will be subject to disciplinary action.”

But on Tuesday, an apoplectic Cuomo lashed out at NYU’s security team and the NYPD for not doing anything to break up the party. He also critiqued the partygoers for putting others and themselves at risk of potentially contracting COVID-19, pointing to a high number of outbreaks at college campus across America at the start of the new fall semester.

“Frankly, NYU security didn’t do anything about it. The local police didn’t do anything about it,” Cuomo said. “What do you think is going to happen? You know we’re closing colleges all across the state. … We’re New York tough, but that is not tough. That is not tough by the NYU administrators, who as soon as they heard about it, should’ve stopped it. It’s not tough by the New York City enforcement. They saw the large gathering, the violation of social distancing, and it wasn’t smart.”

amNewYork Metro reached out to NYU for comment, and is awaiting a response. 

Across the country, at least 108 colleges have reported more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Six schools in New York have seen COVID-19 outbreaks so far: SUNY Oneonta, Cornell University, University at Buffalo, Hofstra University, SUNY Oswego, Colgate University and SUNY Fredonia.

The outbreaks have prompted Cuomo to direct a new state Department of Health regulation: all schools that record more than 100 positive cases must report that to the agency immediately. If they record 100 or more new COVID-19 cases, they can then be shut down, with all classes transitioned into remote learning.

“It’s not good for the students, and for those who want to socialize and party, now you’re going to have to do remote learning,” Cuomo said of this outcome. “It’s not going to be helpful to the school administration, but it’s going to happen. One hundred new cases can happen very easily.”

The governor noted that he previously talked with college students about changes to campus life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and received feedback about the difficulty of enforcing regulations that prohibit large congregations. Cuomo said he doesn’t mind taking the blame for being a buzzkill if it means stopping the spread of coronavirus.

“I say to them, do it in my name. Go to Washington Square Park, get a megaphone and say, ‘Governor Cuomo orders you all to disburse immediately,'” Cuomo said. “Blame me. I’ve said that from day one.”

As for the impending opening of elementary and high schools this week, Cuomo announced the launch of a new online “report card” that parents can check to see their school district’s test results, infection rates and other important COVID-19 testing data information.

Each school district is being ordered to file daily reports with the state Health Department as to the number of COVID-19 tests taken, number of positive results, average turnaround time for tests, numbers of students/teachers infected and whether they’re working in person or remotely. 

The data is being imported into the new website and will soon be available to the public at schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov.

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