NEW YORK — The city has ended a pilot program that closed off streets in four boroughs for pedestrian use amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was made in an effort to shift NYPD resources and encourage social distancing, according to the mayor’s office.
The pilot program required more than 80 NYPD officers to shut down six to seven blocks in four boroughs every day, per the mayor’s office. Over the past two weeks, not enough people were using the spaces to justify the police presence.
“The brave men and women of the NYPD never back away from a challenge when the safety of New Yorkers is at stake. We are suspending this pilot because we must protect them like they are protecting us, and not enough New Yorkers are utilizing this program to justify its continuation at this point in time,” Jane Meyer, deputy press secretary for the mayor’s office, said Monday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a COVID-19 news conference, said people are following social distancing rules but enforcement in such areas needs to remain strong regardless.
“If you don’t attach enforcement to them, we’re very concerned they become new gathering points, and we don’t want to be solving one problem by creating a new one,” the mayor said. “Right now, keeping the NYPD and other enforcement entities focused where they are is, we believe, the best strategy. Remember they do have fewer personal than usual.”
On Sunday, the NYPD reported 6,718 uniformed members were out sick, which accounts for more than 18% of the department’s uniformed workforce. Over 2,100 members of the NYPD have tested positive for COVID-19.
The NYPD also reported another COVID-19-related death in the department. Auxiliary Police Sgt. Angel Leon, a 39-year veteran who was assigned to the 43rd Precinct, died on Saturday, according to the NYPD.