New York City has shuttered dog parks to curb overcrowding amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, City Hall said Monday.
After receiving numerous complaints of packed dog runs, the Parks Department closed all four-legged friendly spaces as of April 6 until further notice. Dog runs are the latest in a spate of New York closures to crack down on those ignoring social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand how important dog runs are to our furry, four-legged friends, but because of ongoing overcrowding, dog runs and dog parks will be closed starting today,” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said in a statement. “Our parks remain open otherwise, and they are great places to get fresh air and exercise for New York City pups.”
Dogs are welcome elsewhere in the city’s parks as long as they remain on a leash, per NYC Parks’ rules. The dog run crackdown comes less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the de Blasio administration to close all city playgrounds to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Saturday, the city’s 1,010 playgrounds have shuttered until further notice, but the open spaces within parks remain open.
This week, the Parks Department is doubling down on its pledge to curb outdoor use by removing basketball rims and tennis nets as well as locking up all sports courts with a gate, says NYC Parks spokesperson Crystal Howard.
Despite Cuomo’s stay-at-home mandate, many of the city’s parks and playgrounds have teemed with life as green space-starved New Yorkers flock to the outdoors for respite. Cuomo dubbed the behavior “reckless” and ordered New York City to tackle overcrowding by closing streets to car traffic (similar to what the city already does with Summer Streets) to give New Yorkers more breathing room.
In response, the de Blasio administration enacted a pilot program to pedestrianize four streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. Transportation advocates called the effort a far cry from the mass pedestrianization of major thoroughfares needed during this crisis, with Transportation Alternatives’ Danny Harris and Bike New York’s Jon Orcutt calling it “critical to public safety” that more streets are opened up to New Yorkers.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio has since suspended the program, with City Hall spokesperson Jane Meyers saying Monday that “not enough New Yorkers are utilizing this program to justify its continuation at this point in time.”