The city's police has begun issuing citations and implementing curfews in public parks that became oases of social activity during the pandemic.
"While the city’s coronavirus restrictions have mostly lifted, the newfound reliance on city parks has shown little sign of receding," writes Jake Offenhartz in Gothamist. "The advent of permanent open streets and to-go drinks has only cemented the connection between nightlife and public space." Yet despite the clear evidence that public spaces make for vibrant and healthy communities, "the NYPD now appears to be cracking down on park activity, including the impromptu gatherings that served as a lifeline for many in the last year."
"Asked about the curfews on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the department for striking a balance between protecting freedom and ensuring safety, and said he did not have a problem with the NYPD shuttering city parks at their own discretion." Some residents in areas like the West Village suspect that other motives may be behind the crackdown. "The West Village is 80% white, and roughly 40% of the neighborhood's residential population fled during the pandemic, among the highest rates in the city. In that time, the park became an increasingly popular hangout spot for young people of color."
Despite a rise in violent crime in much of the city during the last year, "[t]here’s no evidence that public parks are becoming more dangerous on the whole. In the first quarter of 2021, major felonies in city parks reached their lowest level in at least six years. According to figures provided by the Parks Department, there were just 10 criminal court summonses issued citywide by Parks Patrol through May — a fraction of the number issued in recent years."
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