NY Governor Cuomo’s Complaints of NYC’s People Density Levels and What I Found in the Midst of Coronavirus
On Sunday, March 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of his visit to New York City on the previous day. He complained about how there was a density problem in our city, contrary to his mandate on Friday restricting individuals from congregating and demanding they keep their distances; in essence, an urgent request that New Yorkers take to heart in protecting themselves, protecting others and slowing down the progression of COVID-19.
After hearing his words, yours truly couldn’t resist heading to Manhattan for the sake of seeing what the fuss was all about…to see if there was some truth to his complaints, and to what extent.
With mask, gloves and camera in hand, I drove off to Manhattan. I made my way along the local streets from Spanish Harlem down to the Wall Street Area and around back up the West Side Highway to the Javits Center neighborhood. From there, drove across 34th and partially snaked my way up to 96th and the FDR Drive, videotaping my trip with a dashcam and making pitstops for some quick walkabouts.
What’d I find?
Allow me first to cut to the chase and save you the trouble of reading through my experience before learning of my conclusion. This city, in my honest painful opinion, needs to either place greater restrictions on its citizens or close some streets and, as one online blog put it, ‘pedestrianize’ certain sections. People’s first instinct, aside from strolling down any given sidewalk, would be to head to the parks. The parks and playgrounds are open which, to me, might appear as an open invitation. Yet, to paraphrase Mayor Bill de Blasio, “this is all on a test basis during this first week” following the Governor’s declaration. If things don’t get better, as per the Mayor, then tighter restrictions might be employed. Mind you, the mayor also mentioned how there’ll be a big enough police force on view in the coming days within our parks and such. I suppose, these police officers will be the eyes and ears of Mr. de Blasio. Putting aside those parks and playgrounds, there was that occasional block and pedestrian walkway…filled with too many people to afford them the ability to keep their distance. I’m not entirely sure how those areas would be enforced but I have faith that things will turn out okay regardless of which path we end up on…as long as it’s a sane one.
In a nutshell, most folks are ‘behaving’. When I use that word, mind you, I simply mean: were they keeping their distance? Remember, the official mandate demands that we stay at least six feet away from each other. So yes, I witnessed a good percentage of individuals maintaining their distance. Yet, there were spots along the way where that wasn’t the case. Keep in mind, that which I share is based upon my visual inspections from the car as well as on foot.
Down along Fifth avenue from Harlem to the upper 40s pedestrian traffic is sparse, and I do mean it’s empty. Along that route I spotted maybe a few individuals at the most within any block, yet if I saw a few then it’d be a number of blocks before spotting another grouping. Grand Central Terminal was Ghostly as were the nearby streets and sidewalks to the north and west of it. Populated streets got slowly denser the closer I got to Union Square Park. I wasn’t able to get to the park to walk about but, from where I was situated, there were way too many individuals walking to and fro along 14th Street. It wasn’t literally crowded but too much for distancing comfort.
Broadway, west of Washington Square was empty. Within the park itself? Nearly half a dozen skateboarders were at it and too close to each other for safety sake. The park was filled with people, each kind of making an effort to keep a distance, but not exactly investing their all. Benches were filled with the young and old, all just slightly beyond arms length. A good breeze would’ve carried any cough, sneeze, spit and (possibly?) breath to the nearest person.
Traveling down Broadway to the Financial District and passing Chinatown revealed nothing but emptiness. There was nary a soul on Canal visible from my vantage point, and the area surrounding the World Trade Center was equally void of life. The Oculus was more ghostly than Grand Central.
Northbound along the West Side Highway showed me a potential problem. The pedestrian-way there, for some distance from 14th towards 34th (and I mentioned that stretch only because that’s the extent of my driving along that way) was brimming with joggers and bicyclists. Part of the Mayor and Governor’s messaging is getting out is to exercise if need be, and within limits. All wonderful sentiments, but I don’t think good intentions apply when folks are strongly expiring within a hop and skip of the next person. Follow? It’s way too crowded there for goodness sake; and that’s only what I got to witness.
Beyond that? My travels showed me more of the same kind of quiet I’d seen elsewhere in other parts of the city.
Soooo, you’ve seen my conclusion above and I’ve as much high hopes for the people as the Mayor does. Problem? …or rather a big one. Spring is right around the corner. I dare you to keep everyone in check. Of course New York City, like the rest of this country, is on a trajectory that’s shooting not for the moon, but for another galaxy. We’re on a one way trip to trouble. The Mayor knows it. The Governor knows it. Perhaps that’s exactly the method to their madness? Once things get worse, WAY WORSE, New Yorkers will see the light and really keep their distance? ‘and Remember, that bit of ‘Worse’ is only weeks if not days away.
What follows is Governor Cuomo’s words from Sunday:
“I was in NYC yesterday. It was a pretty day. There is a density level in New York City that is wholly inappropriate. You would think there was nothing going on in parts of New York City. You would think it was just a bright, sunny Saturday. I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get. I’m normally accused of being overly blunt and direct and I take that. It’s true. I don’t know what they’re not understanding. This is not life as usual. None of this is life as usual. This kind of density, we talk about social distancing, I was in these parks – you would not know that anything was going on. This is just a mistake. It’s a mistake. It’s insensitive, it’s arrogant, it’s self-destructive, it’s disrespectful to other people and it has to stop and it has to stop now. This is not a joke and I am not kidding. We spoke with the Mayor of the City of New York and the Speaker of the City Council Corey Johnson. I told both of them that this is a problem in New York City. It’s especially a problem in New York City parks.”
“New York City must develop an immediate plan to correct this situation. I want a plan that we can review in 24 hours so that we can approve it. There are many options. You have much less traffic in New York City because non-essential workers aren’t going to work. Get creative. Open streets to reduce the density. You want to go for a walk? God bless you. You want to go for a run? God bless you. But let’s open streets, let’s open space – that’s where people should be, in open spaces areas, not in dense locations. There is no group activity in parks. That is not the point. We spoke about it the other day. Also I saw kids playing basketball yesterday. I play basketball. There is no concept of social distancing while playing basketball. It doesn’t exist. You can’t stay six feet away from a person playing basketball. You can, but then you’re a lousy basketball player and you’re going to lose. You just cannot do that.”
“We also have bigger parks in New York City. We opened Shirley Chisolm parks in Brooklyn. 400 acres. Van Cortlandt Park. There are big parks, there are big spaces. That’s where you want to be. But we need a plan from New York City, I want it in 24 hours because this is a significant problem that has to be corrected.”