NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New Yorkers are preparing for a different kind of July 4th weekend. Many are steering clear of their usual travel plans this year and looking to stay closer to home due to COVID-19.
Luckily, as CBS2’s John Dias reports, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate and enjoy the long weekend.
It’s not going to be the Independence Day weekend we’re used to seeing in New York City, but many New Yorkers say at least it will be something.
“We should still try to make an effort to try and enjoy ourselves within reason, within following the rules,” said Ed Suberevi of Jackson Heights.
“I’m just grateful that the holiday, maybe it’ll brighten things up and everything, so I’m grateful,” another man said.
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Face masks and social distancing will be key, but the mayor has expanded outdoor dining options. Starting tonight, the city will close 22 streets to traffic on weekends, including a part of 14th Street in Chelsea, making them a car-free, street dining experience.
Chelsea resident Jason Somerfeld was supposed to be in Greece for the holiday.
“I’m going to be outdoor dining at night, during the day, I’m gonna be be working,” he said. “I think New York needs to evolve with the times of what’s going on.”
Restaurants will have to adhere to certain safety guidelines. Roadway tables are required to have a protective barrier on all three sides of seating in the street, marked with reflectors or reflective tape.
The city will send out inspectors to keep tabs.
“We’re really hoping this will be a shot in the arm of the restaurant industry, but again you gotta do it safely,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
The expanded seating for outdoor dining is allowed from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday nights, and noon to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It lasts until Labor Day.
Not everyone is planning to head out for the holiday weekend, however.
“So you’re not going to partake in outdoor dining or anything like that?” Dias asked.
“No. I don’t think it’s safe,” said Alexis Guerrero of East New York. “It’s just like you’re going to have your mask on for a few minutes and then you have to pull your mask down to eat, so what’s the point?”
Public barbecue areas in Big Apple parks are reopening this weekend.
At the Fairway Market in West Harlem, many were grocery shopping for cookouts, looking forward to the weekend.
“I think it’s exciting because we have been locked down for so long. It’s welcomed,” said shopper Raquel St. John.
But some say we can’t celebrate the holiday so cavalierly.
“I think It’s very foolish, because people who are older than 60 are at much higher risk,” said Harlem resident Ron Mincy.
“I’ll just avoid it. That’s a choice that people make and I know people look forward to it every year,” another woman said.
America may be celebrating its independence, but we are still not free from spreading the coronavirus.
In addition to eating outdoors, people can spend time out in the water; New York City opened beaches for swimming this week.
Amusement parks opened Thursday in New Jersey, bringing more families out to the Jersey Shore.
“Nobody thought it was going to open in time for us,” said Ben Leeman, visiting from Massachusetts.
But, it was the right time for businesses looking to cash in on a late start to the season after coronavirus shut down the boardwalk.
Businesses there are operating again, some filled with hand sanitizer and socially distanced games.
The manager at Sonny & Rickey’s Arcade told CBS2 they are taking it a step further by assigning two employees each day to do frequent cleanings and enforce face covering rules.
“Is that going to change the cost for customers? Absolutely not. Nothing is going to change for them. We are going to remain the same in cost and price. This pandemic is not the customer’s fault,” said Ashli Ann Schwing.
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The money customers spend will ultimately impact the economy, a much needed change for workers like Chris Daugherty, who’s now in a better place to provide for his family.
“It’s taking me out of the red already, like, I’m already caught up on rent. I’m doing well, food is in the house, kids are happy. That’s all that matters to me,” he said.