Playgrounds must remain closed until Phase 2 reopening, says mayor

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Members of the Jewish community marched on June 14, led by a posse of children through the streets of Williamsburg, calling on the Governor and Mayor to reopen playgrounds and summer camps for their children. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Despite several demonstrations by some communities demanding city playgrounds be reopened, Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm and said the determination will occur on Phase 2 of the reopening so that there is no resurgence of COVID-19.

The mayor took issue with some people who have taken it upon themselves to cut the chains off of several playgrounds, including one in Williamsburg that has been the epicenter of the protests and the past COVID-19 infection.

The Williamsburg community suffered the deaths of hundreds of residents and thousands becoming infected with the contagion. Mayor de Blasio said they are proceeding carefully to avoid a resurgence as has happened in other states and in China.

“We are not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands – people are not allowed to open the playground,” Mayor de Blasio said. “I am sympathetic to the community. We must make sure that until the order is given, that our. children stay off the playgrounds because people act prematurely, that will undermine our ability to get to Phase 2 – there are reasons for these rules.”

Both the mayor and the governor maintain that failure to do things properly will result in a resurgence of the virus as has happened in Texas, Arizona and Florida.

On Sunday, several elected officials joined with a group of parents with children at Kolbert Playground in Midwood and the day before, leaders held a three-mile march through the community asking the mayor to reopen the playgrounds. State Senator Simcha Felder said, “the children are playing anyway outside the parks in the dirt in unsafe conditions, so we should just let them play inside the park away from traffic and in a safe environment.”

Gate to this Williamsburg playground was left open. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Some of those in that gathering also asked for reopening of summer sleep-away camps, a hard-line struck by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The mayor said that despite the complaints, he was sticking to the schedule and studying the daily data to make sure they will reopen as safe as possible.

“I understand when parents say and what are they supposed to do with their kids who have been cooped up – I’m sympathetic. If a family has children playing in front of the house with their own family group, not connecting with other kids then that is fine. It is a difficult crisis and we want to give maximum time possible to get to Phase 2.”

The mayor added that parents should avoid having their children play with other children, but “there are a lot of kids coming in contact with a lot of kids and that can spread the disease and might take us backwards. I understand the argument but we are risking the whole situation as we are going to take one step at a time.”

It was unclear what measures will be taken at this time to stop people from cutting the gate locks and chains.

State Senator Simcha Felder talks about reopening playgrounds on Monday, June 15.  (Photo by Todd Maisel)