If you were wondering how warm weather will affect the life-saving social distancing measures many New Yorkers have been abiding by for months — methods that have helped flatten the curve — just look at what happened this weekend, when the temperature jumped up to the 70s.
While some have been responsibly using the city’s open spaces for solitary exercise or walks with household members, others have turned up at parks for picnics and group gatherings, sans masks. Some hot spots for this kind of activity over recent weeks have been Prospect Park, every park in Williamsburg, Carl Schurz Park, and now Christopher Street Pier, which became the subject of a viral tweet this weekend:
By Sunday, the NYPD were on the scene handing out masks to anyone who wanted one, but did not appear to be enforcing social distancing practices. Photographer Gretchen Robinette was at the park on Sunday afternoon, and said many were declining the mask offer when approached by the NYPD, who simply moved on. The scene stood in stark contrast to an incident in the East Village the day before, when the NYPD beat a black man during social distancing enforcement.
Parks Enforcement Patrol officers were also present at Christopher Street Pier on Sunday, but Robinette says what she witnessed from them was shocking, as they told everyone on the grass “that half of the lawn was recently reseeded, so to move over to the other side of the rope, causing everyone to cram together even more!” She added that at no point were they telling people to distance themselves, and their directives actually had people who were already too close together to move closer together. “It was mind blowing and everyone was shocked,” she said.
Hudson River Parks has not responded to our request for comment. (Update below with comment from the Hudson River Park Trust.)
The NYPD has not yet released enforcement numbers for May 3rd, but said 11 summonses were issued in regard to social distancing enforcement on May 1st, and 89 on May 2nd. They did not share demographic information about the enforcement, but at a press conference on Monday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the department was working on producing the data and apologized for the delay.
A note on photography: Robinette points out, “I’ve seen photos posted of the exact same moment I shot at the Pier yesterday, looking way more crowded than mine. It’s because of the camera angle compressing distance, giving the illusion of less space between. I intentionally shot to show the actual distance. It’s important to avoid the shock value angle.” These photos were all taken between 3 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020.
At his briefing on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed those not wearing masks: “You could literally kill someone because you didn’t want to wear a mask. How cruel and irresponsible.”
There appear to be two New York Citys right now, one where nothing has changed at all, and one that is the epicenter of a worldwide pandemic. Those who are sheltering in place indoors for the greater good are seeing their fellow New Yorkers disregarding the advice of health experts and effectively putting others at risk, while also dragging this pandemic out even longer. The NY Times reported on mask and anti-mask behavior around the country, noting that it “has become a personal statement and sometimes a political one.”
But a mask should not be political or personal, it’s essential for public health. For those who believe that this isn’t so bad because it’s not visible right outside of their window, or hasn’t directly affected them yet, for those who believe they are not at risk, or are somehow incapable of putting someone else at risk, or believe that this virus is not that severe, please read this Twitter thread below, stop being selfish, and stay home.
My dad is an ICU doctor treating COVID-19 patients. In the past WEEK he has set more “I’ve never seen a heart rate/RBC count/etc. like this” records than in his decades-long career. What this virus does to the body is like “sticking your finger in an electric socket.” Stay home.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) May 3, 2020
Update, May 5th, 11:30 a.m.: A Hudson River Park Trust spokesperson sent us the following statement: “We cannot stress strongly enough that all park-goers should practice social distancing and wear face coverings, and we’ve posted signs throughout Hudson River Park making this clear.” They also said, “our Park Enforcement Patrol is working hard to educate park users to wear a mask and stay six feet apart and working closely with NYPD to support this effort,” but we did not witness this during the hours we were there on Sunday.
The spokesperson added, “We hope all park visitors can also take some personal responsibility right now out of respect for their fellow New Yorkers. While a portion of Pier 45 is cordoned off for annual reseeding until later this week, we hope everyone along Hudson River Park will adhere to social distancing and face covering protocols during this crisis.”