UPDATED: Playgrounds Reopen as Part of Phase 2

Playgrounds have been closed since April 1st, but are now allowed to reopen as the City moves into Phase 2. Image Credit: CityLand

Over 1000 playgrounds will be reopened and cleaned, but equipment will not be sanitized. On June 18, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that playgrounds would be reopened as part of Phase 2, which began Monday, June 22nd. While NYC parks generally remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many facilities within parks were closed and restrictions were placed to limit the activity allowed in parks in an effort to stop overcrowding and the spread of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced the closure of all NYC playgrounds, as the density within them was too high. For CityLand’s prior coverage of park closings, click here.

Now that New York City has reached required thresholds to move on into Phase 2 of reopening, over 1000 of the City’s playgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Group play, including team sports (basketball and handball), is still restricted and the sprinklers, skateboard ramps and dog runs are also still closed. For more information about the status of NYC Parks facilities, click here

To continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visitors are asked to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Social distancing ambassadors will be visiting playgrounds to provide face coverings and remind families about the importance of social distancing and taking precautions. Parks and park restrooms are cleaned daily, but park equipment is not sterilized, so visitors are reminded to avoid touching faces, to wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. Due to the number of playgrounds, the number of surfaces within each playground  and the frequency at which playgrounds are used by different children, it is not possible to ensure that every playground surface is sterilized, so it is up to parents to assess the risk and follow precautions. At a press conference on June 18th, Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “If they’re out in the playground, really important to use the hand sanitizer, wash hands afterwards, all sorts of precautions that need to be taken.” 

Prior to the announcement, Council Speaker Corey Johnson took to Twitter on June 17th, stating, “While it was initially necessary to close NYC playgrounds to stop the coronavirus from spreading, with so many communities lacking outdoor space + reopening phases in full swing, we need to reopen playgrounds, with necessary precautions (e.g., regular cleanings, wearing masks.) It’s a sad fact that many communities don’t have access to major parks and green space, which only exacerbates the divide between the haves and have nots in NYC. All kids need places to play and get some fresh air. It’s time to open our playgrounds.” 

Parks advocates shared their excitement that playgrounds were to reopen, but also expressed concerns about how budget cuts have eliminated some maintenance and other positions within the Parks Department. Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, stated, “It’s great that the mayor is reopening playgrounds on Monday. Many New Yorkers have been stuck at home for three months, especially in low-income neighborhoods where playgrounds provide the only source of open spaceBut the Parks Department needs to have sufficient funding to maintain and protect these spaces. Greater demand and need for access to open space should mean increased funding, not less. The Parks Department is facing significant budget cuts, including the loss of 340 safety and maintenance positions. It couldn’t come at a worse time. Now we’re asking the mayor and City Council need to step up and secure this funding, or else we could see park and playground access once again restricted because the Parks Department won’t have funding to maintain them.”

CityLand continues to follow New York City’s reopening. For continuing coverage of the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here

UPDATE (6/26/20): On June 25, 2020, the City announced it is planning to reopen dog runs and recreational amenities like basketball, tennis, volleyball, handball and bocce courts and soccer fields on July 6th when the City is expected to enter Phase 3 of reopening.


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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