Children of the Midwood community would normally be laughing and playing in Kolbert Playground in Brooklyn on a beautiful Sunday summer morning.
But playgrounds remain off-limits and locked on Sunday as the administration decides whether the allow those areas to be carefully reopened in what appears to be the tail end of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City.
Elected officials gathered in front of Kolbert Playground on Avenue L and East 17th Street on Sunday morning to ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to finally unchain the gates as a “safer alternative to children playing in the busy streets.”
Residents throughout the city have expressed support for reopening the playgrounds as children have been locked indoors for nearly three months and have been playing together on busy streets, building stoops, and sometimes in the busy streets.
Families joined the elected officials in calling on the mayor to reopen the parks, saying children have already been playing together and “do not socially distance themselves with their playmates anyway.”
The mayor has been cautious in reopening, fearing that racing forward with the complete reopening of all facilities and playgrounds might trigger a relapse that might set back efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 that has killed 16,000 people in New York City alone since February.
This was the third protest of this kind, two others were held in Williamsburg, organized by radio personality Heshy Tischler. Those protests saw children covering more than two miles marching behind police cars calling on the city to open their parks, but also to reopen sleep-away camps that the Governor continues to deny access saying it would endanger too many children and adults.
Councilman Kalman Yeger appealed to the mayor to reopen the playgrounds because “children are already playing on our streets and are not social distancing — they are playing already in more dangerous conditions.”
“We’ve stood together arm and arm to beg the mayor to reopen our parks, and now more than ever, it’s become clear as to why that is important,” Yeger said. “Not just what you see around us, all these children who don’t have a place to be, who are standing outside the parks in this filthy dirt on the side playing just so they can get the fresh air they need and being the closest they can get to in a park.”
Yeger pointed out that “not every neighborhood has a Prospect Park that is open, or 14th Avenue and 86th Street which is wide open where people are going in and partying and it’s beautiful. This park has a gate and a lock on it and its been like this for more than 90 days and that’s an outrage.”
“We live in a cement city and the children have no place to go,” Yeger sighed. “Maybe if every single park were shuttered, maybe we wouldn’t have a right to complain. There is a double standard, we are supposed to be living in the fairest city in the world — why are some parks open and some not?”
State Senator Simcha Felder said, “This is not a situation where if you close the playgrounds that children are staying in their homes.”
“They are playing outdoors and they are playing in places that are not safe,” Felder added. “Mr. Mayor, open the playgrounds. I want to thank all the families that have gathered this is representative of all families in New York City, and that’s all we are asking for — it’s a reasonable request.”