Mayor’s Summer Plan and the Governor’s Summer Activities for NYC amidst COVID-19
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo would each, respectively speaking, touch upon the idea of a “Summer Plan” and “Summer Activities”. These would be mentioned during each leader’s respective COVID-19 press conference. We’ve no clue what might be in store, but it’s clear they understand how New York residents will need something to do during the hotter days of the coming season.
With a population of 8.6 million residents, New York City is the most densely populated city in the country. It’s no wonder that there would be concern about individual’s abilities to move about whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines. Being the epicenter of the national and global health crisis makes things especially difficult for local leaders, the public as well as our support & emergency personnel. Let’s have a quick look at how things have fared.
Mayor’s handling of open spaces thus far
To an outsider browsing through the latest local news, it might appear as if the Mayor’s been hounded for weeks on the subject of street closures. But that’d amount to only half the story. The core subject at hand has always been open spaces for New Yorkers. It’s also been a pet peeve of yours truly. Having driven into and throughout the city, I’ve seen plenty of instances when there simply wasn’t enough space. That is, space for individuals to walk, run or bicycle and still adhere to the social distancing guidelines in place. Aside from the occasional sidewalk, I’ve seen overcrowding on the greenways by our city’s waters – along the East River Greenway as well as the long paths by the Hudson River.
Of course, there’s no question that as the days get warmer the chances of further overcrowding will become greater. Social media posts have shown how people can’t resist the lure of our parks on a gorgeous sunny day like yesterday when the temps went above 60 degrees.
It wouldn’t be as if the Mayor hasn’t tried. Near the beginning of the pandemic, he did his best to keep public parks spaces open having closed a small portion of the city’s basketball courts and a much smaller number of playgrounds. Soon thereafter it would be Governor Cuomo who stepped in and ordered all the playgrounds closed. Both leaders assured us that the parks would remain open.
Yet, on April 16 his office would unveil the NYC Executive Budget which called for the closing of all outdoor pools for the 2020 season (late June to Labor Day). In interviews around that time he would state how beaches would not open on schedule (being Memorial Day weekend) and how caution needed to be exercised in light of the ongoing pandemic.
As for the 75 mile open streets bill, recently introduced by Council Speaker Johnson, Mr. de Blasio’s been unwavering in his reluctance to agree to such a plan. Not for lack of wanting, but for the lack of Police and other personnel needed. Even if the NYC Council were to go ahead and vote the bill through it’d likely face a veto from the Mayor. The ensuing process it’d have to go through for passing would merely be dragged out, in turn making the entire pursuit moot. That is, if the city ends up partially recovering and reopening by that time. The definition of which, no one can answer.
On April 6, Mr. de Blasio announced how his own ‘Open Streets Pilot Program‘ was coming to an end for that very same reason. Any sane person reading through NYPD Chief Michael Pilecki’s statement last week, in response to the Open Streets Bill introduced on Friday, might agree there’s no sense in causing greater stress to an already diminished police force; one that’s felt the impact of this COVID-19 Health Crisis.
Relatedly speaking and worthy of a mention, in 2019, the City Council would push through a bill meant to “prioritize the safety of all street users, the use of mass transit, the reduction of vehicle emissions, and access for individuals with disabilities.”
A Summer Plan
Today, the press would make mention of the overcrowded areas along the waterfront and ask him what he plans to do if he doesn’t support the Open Streets idea. There would also be a reference to a ‘Summer Plan’ which the Mayor had vaguely spoken of in the past.
His response this morning, “Right. So as I’ve said, we will have a bigger summer plan for sure. It’s April 26th today. There’s time to bring that out over the next couple of weeks. We will do that … I’ve spoken to the Transportation Commissioner, Police Commissioner, we’re talking about the ways to address the issues around the parks in particular where there may be very valid areas that we need to open up further. We’re having very productive conversations with the City Council, but everything starts with health and safety. So what I have to make sure working with the Police Commissioner, Transportation Commissioner, Parks Commissioner, is that we are solving problems, not inadvertently creating new ones, and that we do things in a way that always is connected to enforcement.”
He would first bring up the subject of a ‘Summer Plan’ on April 22 when asked about the city’s plans to deal with upcoming holidays as well as people who need a way to handle the hot Summer days – Days when they would normally head to a beach or cooling center.
“Yeah, that’s something…we’ve been talking about over the last few days. Obviously, in these settings we’re absolutely going to be unveiling a summer plan that looks at how we can protect people, first and foremost,” said Mr. de Blasio.
“Knowing that beaches are not opening in the beginning, we still have to protect people who might go to the beaches, but we don’t want to see anything like the normal reality of folks traveling. And let’s face it, most people go to the beach, they take the subway, they take the bus. That’s not happening right now. That’s not acceptable right now. We don’t want large numbers of people anywhere near the beaches, but we have to protect if people show up in any number to make sure that they’re safe.”
Summer Activities as per Governor Cuomo
Governor Andrew Cuomo would today outline a multi-phase plan of reopening New York State. Amongst the numerous details he went into was the mention of Summer Activities in our area of New York City.
“Downstate, which does have particular needs, we need summer activities in downstate New York. You can’t tell people in a dense urban environment all through the summer months, we don’t have anything for you to do, stay in your apartment with the three kids. You know, that doesn’t work. There’s a sanity equation here also that we have to take into consideration. Special attention for public housing residents. Special attention for low-income communities”, said the Governor.