NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — After spending much of March and all of April indoors, cooped-up New Yorkers couldn’t resist the spectacular weekend weather and flocked to parks and open streets Saturday.
In order to make sure everyone could keep a safe distance, the city rushed to start its “Open Streets” program a few days early.
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Even as the sky turned dark, hundreds of New Yorkers remained in Fort Tryon Park on Saturday night.
Many spent hours there during the day as well, taking in some fresh air.
“We wanted to get out of our house so we came to Fort Tryon Park,” one woman said. “We live in an apartment which is not very spacious so we wanted to go some place with space.”
To help people do that safely and at a social distance, streets in and around city parks were closed to vehicle traffic Saturday morning.
Seven miles of streets are now closed throughout the city.
The move is a part of a recently announced plan to open at least 40, and up to 100, miles of streets to only pedestrians and cyclists.
The news is thrilling to many New Yorkers.
“Usually our sidewalks are so tight that it’s impossible to keep your distance, but having the streets open to pedestrians makes it a little bit more possible for us to walk and not feel like we’re on top of one another,” one woman said.
“The sign of civilization, public space being for people and pedestrians and cyclists and people walking their dogs. And the cars are where the cars should be and the people are where the people should be,” one man said.
The city says it will continue to evaluate and reassess the plan as it opens more and more streets to the public.
“Obviously want to make sure that people maintain social distance, that we don’t see too much crowding. We’re going to be looking at how the barricades are set up and make sure that that works, that it’s safe, that emergency vehicles, deliveries, things that may need to get in that they’re able to do that, so there’ll be a little trial and error over the next couple days, but we’re hoping it’s gonna be a big success,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
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The “Open Streets” plan was supposed to start on Monday, but the mayor said the NYPD and city agencies worked quickly to make sure all the proper enforcement could be in place so people could enjoy the weekend outdoors.
Some New Yorkers, like the Tower family, say while they are noticing the open streets are bringing more people to their local parks, they don’t think the plan will spread the coronavirus.
“As we get closer to people, we put the masks on, but it’s sometimes a bit scary, the thought of so many people in the park, but people are very respectful. When they see you coming, we all kind of do the swerve or the lean to the left or right,” Josh Tower said.
The city says the goal is ensure more and more New Yorkers feel safe as they spend more and more time outdoors, especially as the weather gets nicer.
Officers will be on hand to enforce the rules. Those officers are some of the 1,000 out patrolling the city this weekend.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants people to enjoy the weather, but he also wants everyone respecting others and staying safe — or else.
“While you’re out there, keep that face covering on, keep that social distance. But anyone who tries to resist these basic rules, and tries to create a public gathering for example, or tries to put together a sports event or anything like that, the NYPD is going to immediately give them a summons, and these are hefty summonses,” the mayor said.
The city is also distributing 100,000 face masks this weekend at parks across the five boroughs.
The mayor says not enough people are wearing them.
The city says it hopes people will take advantage of the open streets.
Get outside, get some air, but just do it safely and don’t forget your face covering.