NYC Considering Fines up to $500 for Noncompliance in Social Distancing

NYC Considering Fines up to $500 for Noncompliance in Social Distancing

March 29 Update: When asked, Mayor de Blasio stated the fines would be somewhere between $250 – $500.

Original Post:

NYC’s parks, playgrounds and streets have been a somewhat controversial issue in these past days on social media and elsewhere. Recently, Mayor de Blasio announced a pilot program through which certain streets within each borough would be opened to pedestrian traffic. Also, there’ve been concerns over residents not obeying the social distancing guidelines within our parks and playgrounds. Because of that, the Mayor has mentioned how a decision would be made this coming weekend over whether to close all or some playgrounds. Just the other day the city had 80 some odd basketball hoops from about 1700 courts threatening to go further if folks did not comply in keeping their distance.

Today, the Mayor stated that fines up to $500 were being considered with a decision on the subject to come within the following days. It was not clear whether such a fine would be issued exclusively within the parks and playgrounds or if it would have a city-wide application. I’m thinking the latter.

Although he goes on to say that New Yorkers, for the most part were complying, we can’t help wonder how far his observational reach goes. That is, in as far as compliance goes. As I’ve mentioned in past postings, I’ve seen bicyclists and joggers practically on top of each other one day along the pedestrian way of the Hudson River. Yesterday, whilst driving northbound along the FDR, I spotted quite a number of people strolling a bit too close to each other along the East River Greenway. I mean, intuitively speaking, I know what social distancing to the point of six feet should mean; rather, I thought I knew. Yet, I’ve repeatedly seen individuals and groups thereof walking less than six feet of each other…and passing each other a bit too close. Not that I believe they’re doing this intentionally against the declared mandates (although, a bit of it IS due to carelessness, methinks). No, I think it’s more a matter of such walkways, and sidewalks in some instances, being too narrow. Is the Mayor aware of this problem?

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s words today:

“Related to our parks and the question that’s been on everyone’s mind about what’s going to happen going forward with our parks and the question of whether we’re seeing compliance and commitment to social distancing? Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes and this is coming back from the NYPD, Parks Department, and many other agencies. We’re seeing the vast majority of New Yorkers do the right thing, observe social distancing, take it seriously, spend only the time that they have to be outdoors, outdoors, and then get back indoors. But we are seeing in the last day or so, we have seen some noncompliance that is really a concern. We obviously have to think about the warmer weather coming ahead and we need to make sure that people understand this is really, really serious. So, the NYPD has been instructed, of course, to educate people, warn people, move along if people need to be moved along, break up groups and make sure there’s no gatherings. I want to be very clear that at this weekend we’re going to make a decision on whether we need to start instituting fines for anyone who is noncompliant. We have not made that decision yet. We’ll make it this weekend. Fines of up to $500 per incident are being discussed right now. This means if any of our officers – NYPD or Parks or any other agency tells you, you need to move along, you need to move along. If they tell you to break up your gathering, you need to break up your gathering. It does not mean you can break it up for a few minutes and then come back. It doesn’t mean you can tell the officer you’re not going to do it. We’re going to start to bring heavier enforcement to bear if people don’t pay attention to the nonstop guidance that we’ve all been giving, and our officers are giving, and our health experts giving, and the national news media has given. Come on, you’ve gotten enough information to know you have to practice social distancing. I know it’s not easy. I know it goes against everything we’re used to doing. No more team sports, no more social gatherings in the park, no ganging close together, unless it’s your own family members or the people you live with under the same roof. Those are the rules and people really need to follow those rules. If you don’t follow those rules, then what it’s going to say to me is we start to have to use much more serious penalties. I don’t want people to be penalized in a time when there’s so much economic distress. I don’t want people to be penalized who are trying to make sense of a new painful reality, but I need people to listen and understand this about protecting yourself, your family, and all the rest of us. So, we’ll have more information on that over the weekend, but I am asking my fellow New Yorkers to take it seriously or else there will have to be more severe measures. Obviously, the same point about playgrounds. After tomorrow night we’re going to make a decision on whether to keep playgrounds open. It will be directly related to the level of compliance we see, whether we can keep them open or not.“