The NYPD will no longer target small groups or people who fail to wear protective face masks in public, and will focus on breaking up large gatherings to enforce social distancing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday.
Cops will continue to disperse large groups in the city that are most likely to present a risk of spreading the coronavirus, but will now take a softer approach, the mayor said.
‘But we’re not going to have the NYPD focus on, you know, two people together or three people together,’ he added.
‘We’re going to focus on when it starts to be more than a handful of people. And we’re not going to be having the NYPD enforcing on face coverings.’
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said NYPD will no longer target people who are not wearing masks and will focus on breaking up large gatherings
Videos have gone viral showing NYPD officers arresting black men for violating social distancing guidelines. Of the 40 arrests made in Brooklyn since mid-March for the violation, 35 of those have been black residents
The change comes after New York City Police were widely criticized for their harsh social distancing enforcement that has resulted in violent confrontations with members of the public.
Videos have circulated on social media showing scuffles between officers and citizens who ignored rules.
Most recently, video footage captured the moment a woman with a young child was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed as police removed her from a subway station for not wearing a face covering on Wednesday.
De Blasio said police officers will now offer masks to people whose faces are uncovered.
‘We want to make this a positive approach,’ he said.
Police Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch said the revised social distancing policy ‘will create more problems than it solves’.
‘The new policy should be a single sentence: police officers are not responsible for enforcing social distancing or other public health directives’, Lynch said in a statement.
Police will soften their approach in enforcing social distancing guidelines in the city after hardline stance led to string of violent incidents
Members of the New York City Police Department Counterterrorism Bureau speak to two women in masks in Times Square during the coronavirus pandemic on May 13, 2020
Some political leaders in the city had urged the mayor to leave most social distancing enforcement to other city departments, saying sending police officers to do the work would lead to confrontations.
The development comes just as Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed the first loosening of restrictions in many parts of the state and announced that beaches would be allowed to open in time for the Memorial Day weekend – after two months of strict limits on business and social distancing.
State and municipal beaches throughout the state will be allowed to open the Friday before the holiday, but with limits.
Capacity will be restricted to no more than 50 percent of normal, with parking limited to trim crowds.
A woman traveling with her young child through a subway station was forced to the ground by NYPD cops on Wednesday after being busted for not wearing her face mask properly
More than 80 percent of those who were issued summonses for social distancing violations in New York City were people of color
A group of officers pin down 20-year-old Adegoke Atunbi in the video. He later described feeling terrified because he didn’t know if he was going to die
Group activities will not be allowed. Picnic areas and playgrounds will stay closed and employees need to wear masks.
It will be up to local governments, Cuomo said, to decide whether to allow municipal beaches to reopen. If they do, they must follow the state’s rules.
‘If there is a problem, and the locals do not enforce those regulations, we will close those beaches,’ the governor added.
In New York City, no plans have been announced to open city beaches or public pools to swimmers, but people can stroll on the Coney Island boardwalk and on the sand as long as they don’t go in the water, which is barred when lifeguards are not on duty.
De Blasio said ‘we’re just not ready’ to open beaches, but mayoral spokeswoman Jane Meyer said in an email that city beaches could possibly open at some point this summer.
The state’s move comes after New Jersey announced Thursday it was opening beaches for Memorial Day.
‘If New York did not open beaches, you would see an influx of people to the Jersey Shore, Connecticut, etc,’ Cuomo said.
Construction and manufacturing businesses also reopened in many rural parts of New York and some upstate cities on Friday.
Retail businesses can open, too, but only for goods to be picked up quickly, not for in-store shopping.
New York has extended its shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses for the rest of the state, including New York City and Long Island, through May 28.
Cuomo cautioned, though, that employers need to protect workers by supplying masks and limiting congregation of workers. And he said the limited steps the state is taking to reopen would be reversed immediately if infection rates start to rise.
A mounted officer speaks with a group of children, not all wearing masks, and gathered tightly together at Brooklyn’s Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
A woman wearing a mask sits in Sheep Meadow, Central Park as temperatures rise amid the coronavirus pandemic in New York City
‘Watch what happens to the infection rate, testing rate, hospitalization rate,’ he said. ‘If those numbers start to move, slow down on the activity level.’
The coronavirus killed 132 New Yorkers on Thursday, Cuomo said.
While the number of patients admitted to hospitals with the virus has been gradually declining, it has increased slightly in recent days an average of 431 per day.
New York City will spend $55million to provide 74,000 free air conditioners to low-income older adults who may be cooped up inside their apartments all summer because of the pandemic, de Blasio said Friday.
‘Knowing that low-income seniors are the most vulnerable, we’re going to start an initiative right away to get them air conditioners,’ de Blasio said.
Other measures aimed at helping New Yorkers survive summer in the era of social distancing will include setting up air-conditioned cooling centers in facilities such as gyms and libraries and opening fire hydrants safely.
‘This is all about protecting New Yorkers and helping them through the summer,’ de Blasio said.
While parts of upstate New York began a partial reopening on Friday, Cuomo has said that New York City will not begin reopening until mid-June at the earliest.
A pedestrian wears a protective mask during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, May 15, 2020, New York