Update: On June 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted the curfew effective immediately.
New York City, like cities across the U.S., has been roiled by widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Mostly peaceful protests have swept the city, punctured by moments of tension and clashes between police and demonstrators. Some broke into big-name retailers and shops along thoroughfares, particularly in Manhattan and parts of the Bronx, shattering storefronts and making off with merchandise. Late Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a citywide curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next morning to calm the civil unrest that has gripped the five boroughs.
Now, de Blasio has taken the unprecedented step of extending that curfew for the remainder of the week, this time moving the time up several hours so that the curfew now extends from 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. So if you’re trying to figure out what this all means for you—whether you’re an essential worker or stepping out to walk your dog—here’s what to expect during the city’s weeklong curfew.
What is the curfew, and what’s the point?
Mayor Bill de Blasio has extended New York City’s curfew from Tuesday, June 2, through Sunday, June 7, beginning 8 p.m. each evening until 5 a.m. the next morning. (The mayor has since lifted the curfew for the remainder of the weekend.) Under the curfew, vehicle traffic will be banned in Manhattan below 96th Street, with exemptions for local residents, essential workers, buses, and truck deliveries.
As the mayor describes it, a curfew “strengthens the strategies” police are using to crack down on those breaking into stores. But on Monday, the 11 p.m. curfew—New York’s first in decades—failed to curb theft and vandalism on commercial corridors, and many protestors ignored the mandate, carrying on with marches and demonstrations. De Blasio doubled down on Tuesday, arguing that broadening the curfew will strengthen the order.
“It is a helpful tool and having it at 8 p.m. before it gets dark, we think, will magnify our ability to control the situation,” de Blasio told reporters Tuesday at his daily press briefing.
But it’s unclear whether an emergency curfew is effective in reducing unrest. Some criminologists note that there isn’t an abundance of research on the matter, and have raised concerns that a curfew could actually exacerbate the very dynamics that gave rise to the unrest in the first place, as they are likely to be enforced in communities of color and encourage confrontational policing when people are demanding the opposite.
But what if I’m an essential worker? Am I exempt?
Yes, essential workers are exempt from the curfew. That includes emergency medical staff, delivery and restaurant workers, homeless individuals and outreach teams, and so on. For a full list of who qualifies as an essential worker, consult New York State’s website. Essential workers are free to travel to and from work, carry out work duties, and take meal breaks.
There are no specific ID requirements for proving that you’re an essential worker if you’re stopped by a police officer. A “work ID, a business card, any other official documents, or even a work uniform will suffice,” according to City Hall.
What does this mean for mass transit? How about for-hire vehicles?
The MTA will still run subways and buses for essential workers, along with bus service during nightly 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. subway closures. Yellow and green taxis can operate between 8 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. to transport essential workers or those “seeking medical treatment or supplies,” but Uber, Lyft, and other ride apps, will be prohibited from operating during that same period, according to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Citi Bike—which teamed up with the de Blasio administration to offer free membership to essential workers—will cease operation once the curfew takes effect. The same goes for Revel scooters, which have been available in more locations during the pandemic. Riders will be able to dock their bike or scooter after 8 p.m., but they won’t be able to start a new ride.
Mayoral spokesperson Mitch Schwartz noted that the NYPD “expressed some security concerns about the way the bikes were being used,” with one video showing three people making off with stolen goods from a Soho boutique on the blue bikes. City Hall says it is reviewing “alternative options,” but after a day of back and forth with city officials, Citi Bike says it was told to shut down service for Tuesday’s curfew.
“We disagree with this decision and believe it is important for the system to remain open and provide a reliable transportation option,” Citi Bike said in a Tweet. “We know how disruptive this is to everyone who relies on Citi Bike to get home—especially essential workers.”
Are there any consequences if I violate the curfew?
People who are out after 8 p.m. will be asked by police to go home, and if they do not comply, they will be arrested, according to City Hall. Curfew violations are considered a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry maximum penalties of up to three months imprisonment or one year probation; the mayor said Tuesday that enforcement will be focused in neighborhoods that have seen the largest protests.
That’s not to say that if you pop out of your apartment to walk your dog you run the risk of a confrontation with police, according the mayor. “We want people to not to be out after curfew,” de Blasio said. “[But] people who are going about their business or on their way home, we understand that.”