NYC public playgrounds close; Cuomo: 'I warned people'

A police officer keeps watch at a shuttered playground in Harlem, March 31, 2020. ( NYPD )

A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Parks Department would close 10 playgrounds because kids were repeatedly ignoring social-distancing rules during the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that wasn't good enough and called for all of them to shut down.

"We agreed initially with the mayor that we would try compliance and the mayor was going to try to use the NYPD to enforce compliance, social distancing in playgrounds. It is still a problem," Cuomo said at his daily press briefing on Wednesday. "We're going to close down the city playgrounds and leave the open spaces available. So use the open space in a park, walk around, get some sun--great."

The NYPD said that cops have been patrolling the city's parks and playgrounds to break up groups and stop group sports. But many park-goers still haven't gotten the message, according to public accounts and social media posts.

At his own press conference on Wednesday, de Blasio downplayed any conflict with the governor and said that he respects that Cuomo is approaching the issue with "an abundance of caution."

A message on the Parks Department website asks visitors to "take extra precautions to stay healthy and safe."

"While solo exercise is okay, team sports (such as basketball, football, softball, and soccer) are not permitted in our parks at this time," the Parks Department said. "Please maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when outside and avoid congregating in groups."

Cuomo reiterated that message.

"I warned people that if they didn't stop the density and the games in the playgrounds--you can't play basketball; you can't come in contact with each other--that we would close the playgrounds," Cuomo said. "No density, no basketball games, no close contact, no violation of social distancing, period. That's the rule."

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