Sunday, March 22, 2020

Roosevelt Island Resident Asks Why Is McManus Field Being Closed By RIOC Public Safety Department As Long As Coronavirus Social Distancing Practices Maintained - RIOC Says All Permitted Fields Closed Per Governor Cuomo's Order, But Is That What He Really Said?

A Roosevelt Island resident ask why is Roosevelt island Operating Corp Public Safety Department (PSD) saying McManus Field (formerly Octagon Park) is closed?

I asked RIOC President Susan Rosenhtal:
PSD is telling residents that Octagon Park is closed.

Why is that - Is RIOC planning to close other Roosevelt Island parks?
RIOC Public Information Officer Terrence McCauley replied:
All permitted spaces will be closed until further notice. This includes McManus Field and Firefighters Field. This precautionary measure is being taken as part of the Governor’s order for everyone to practice social distancing and remain indoors during the coronavirus outbreak.
I followed up:
Just because it's a permitted space does not mean it's not also an open space park that can be used as long as Social Distancing practices are followed.
Mr McCauley replied:
But people are not using it as an open space park. They are playing organized games where they are violating the social distancing guidelines. The fields are closed until further notice. We encourage residents to enjoy the rest of the island’s outdoor spaces.
Here's transcript excerpt of what Governor Cuomo said during his briefing today about parks and social distancing:

... This is not life as usual. None of this is life as usual. This kind of density, we talk about social distancing, I was in these parks - you would not know that anything was going on. This is just a mistake. It's a mistake. It's insensitive, it's arrogant, it's self-destructive, it's disrespectful to other people and it has to stop and it has to stop now. This is not a joke and I am not kidding. We spoke with the Mayor of the City of New York and the Speaker of the City Council Corey Johnson. I told both of them that this is a problem in New York City. It's especially a problem in New York City parks.

New York City must develop an immediate plan to correct this situation. I want a plan that we can review in 24 hours so that we can approve it. There are many options. You have much less traffic in New York City because non-essential workers aren't going to work. Get creative. Open streets to reduce the density. You want to go for a walk? God bless you. You want to go for a run? God bless you. But let's open streets, let's open space - that's where people should be, in open spaces areas, not in dense locations. There is no group activity in parks. That is not the point. We spoke about it the other day. Also I saw kids playing basketball yesterday. I play basketball. There is no concept of social distancing while playing basketball. It doesn't exist. You can't stay six feet away from a person playing basketball. You can, but then you're a lousy basketball player and you're going to lose. You just cannot do that.

We also have bigger parks in New York City. We opened Shirley Chisolm parks in Brooklyn. 400 acres. Van Cortlandt Park. There are big parks, there are big spaces. That's where you want to be. But we need a plan from New York City, I want it in 24 hours because this is a significant problem that has to be corrected...
A plan for Roosevelt Island parks could be something other than closing them as long as social distancing practices are maintained by those using them.

Here's full video of Governor Cuomo's Coronavirus briefing today.


UPDATE 7:55 PM - RIOC issued this Advisory tonight:
As of now, all permitted spaces, including McManus Field and Firefighters Field, will be closed until further notice. This precautionary measure is being taken as part of the Governor’s order for all New Yorkers to avoid risking exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Residents are encouraged to frequent the other public areas, such as the eastern and western promenades that circle the island as well as Lighthouse Park, Southpoint Park and Four Freedoms State Park. We encourage our residents to remain at least six feet apart from each other at all times.
But unlike RIOC, in a press release this evening the Mayor's Office announced a policy on parks  that does not shut them down at this time:
Enforcement in Parks

The City has already banned team sports and revoked all permits for organized sports and large gatherings, and has increased the presence of NYPD and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers to enforce social distancing. The City is closely coordinating with the State to evaluate these efforts and will consider expanded restrictions as necessary.

Signage will be by NYC Parks at all fields and courts to indicate that all tournaments and sports practices have been cancelled. In addition, Parks has closed all nature centers and recreation centers, and many concessions including ice rinks, amusement parks, carousels, indoor tennis facilities.

Playgrounds run by the Parks Department remain open to provide children with solitary, active recreation. It is critical to practice social distancing among people who do not live in the same household while playing on the playground. Playgrounds will be monitored by the NYPD and Parks Enforcement officers, and new signage will warn parents and guardians to maintain social distancing among children. Over the next week, the Parks Department will evaluate compliance and adopt more stringent rules if needed.

All Shape Up NYC fitness classes, Urban Park Ranger tours, and outdoor events including the annual Street Games festival have been cancelled until further notice. For all updates on park service changes and closures go to

Resident Tapan Parikh adds:
I live next to the field. The larger groups tend to come in the late afternoons and evenings. Turn the lights off. That's a start! There is a better solution to this if you work WITH THE COMMUNITY.

I'm out there all the time. Ill do my part to make sure there aren't any team sports when I'm out there.

My kids need a place to play and get outside and have some normalcy in the middle of a pandemic. The field is their home. Is it being denied to them simply because RIOC can't manage?
UPDATE 10:30 PM:

UPDATE 3/23 - NY State playgrounds and Sports areas being shut down in Long Island City too.

UPDATE 1:45 PM - An online petition has started from some parents who want the Roosevelt Island fields re-opened:
RIOC has made the decision to close all soccer fields on the Island, thus depriving families with kids of the only safe space for being outside. A big soccer field is the only space where families with kids can play and keep the recommended distance away from other people. If RIOC doesn’t reconsider this decision we will be left with narrow crowded promenades and no space for active time out for kids.
UPDATE 3/24: