Playgrounds Remain Open, But Are They Safe?

Playgrounds Remain Open, But Are They Safe?
The playground at Irving Square Park. (Paul Stremple/Bklyner)

As the weather gets nicer, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to keep playgrounds open, even as he puts forward plans to reduce the crowd density of outdoor space in New York City. Some parents aren’t convinced that playgrounds are safe though.

“If people are responsible about use of the playgrounds, and we believe it’s a good outlet for kids who are only going to get in a short period of exercise each day, we’ll keep them open,” said Mayor De Blasio in a press conference on Sunday, March 22.

Although there has been no executive order or legislation closing playgrounds in New York, individual towns in New York State and New Jersey are doing just that.

A National Institutes of Health study found that Coronavirus can survive for up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

Despite this, at his March 22 press conference Mayor De Blasio said that playgrounds will remain open, and that they are impossible to regularly clean or sanitize.

“It would take a Herculean effort every five minutes, literally, that we simply can’t do,” said Mayor De Blasio. “If your kids go to a playground, you might want them to not be on certain types of equipment or any type of equipment. You might say, I don’t want to go to a playground. I just want my kids to run around in an open area. You parents have to make that decision.”

New York City Police and Parks Enforcement officers will monitor playgrounds and parks to make sure people are practicing social distancing, according to a March 22 press release from Mayor De Blasio. New signage will also be placed in playgrounds to encourage hygienic behavior.

Mayor De Blasio promised to introduce new regulations or shut down playgrounds entirely if the situation gets worse in his press conference on Sunday, March 22.

“If we feel that people are taking advantage in the wrong way of the situation or not paying attention to the rules, or it’s creating something that’s just not supportable, we’ll have to at that point strongly consider shutting them down,” said Mayor De Blasio. “It’s not something I want to do.”

Billie Martineau lives in East Flatbush and is the mother of a 3-month-old baby and a 7-year-old girl. Before Coronavirus came to Brooklyn, her daughter would play at the school playground after class or go to the playground near her house on weekends.

On Thursday, March 12  Martineau and her husband made the decision to self-isolate after reading a viral Facebook post from Christina Higgins, an Italian woman addressing Americans about the threat of Coronavirus.

Martineau has found a creative, if sobering, way to spend time outside with her family. They bike to Holy Cross Cemetery, which has plenty of space to run and play while keeping a safe distance from strangers.

“The streets are very wide, so you know you’re not going to be near anybody, and there’s nobody there,” said Martineau. “We go there almost everyday.”

For Martineau, losing playground-time is just a small piece of the monumental challenge of parenting during a pandemic.

“The hardest thing has been to tell our kid that it’s not okay to play with other kids,” said Martineau. “It’s very easy for them to just strike up friendships and to play with people they meet, and now it’s not okay to get near people. That’s weird as a parent — to have that kind of conversation.”