Shore Boulevard in Astoria will be closed to traffic until further notice as of Thursday, April 16, but will be open to pedestrians and cyclists. The news comes shortly after the adjacent Astoria Park closed its skate park and adult fitness area when 114th Precinct observed social distancing guidance weren’t being followed.
Prior to the closure, the Astoria Park Alliance sent a letter asking the Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation (DOT), and the 114th Precinct to work together to “impose a temporary extension of the ‘no standing’ rule” so that its enforcement begins at 7 p.m. instead of the customary midnight to 6 a.m.
“To be clear, we believe in the essential function of the New York City Parks as a cherished public space for New Yorkers during this crisis,” the Park Alliance wrote in the letter. “We wish to support the safe use of our neighborhood’s jewel to keep us all healthy and stop the spread of COVID-19. Astoria Park’s 60 acres provide ample room to maintain social distancing while getting the exercise and mental health reprieve that we all need right now. Yet, we believe there is a time to take action to save lives and that time is now.”
The 114th Precinct then made the final decision to temporarily close the street. Requests to the 114th Precinct for comment went unanswered.
Social distancing is imperative to keep us all safe. Please do your part to use parks safely.
— AstoriaParkAlliance (@APAlliance) April 16, 2020
Councilman Costa Constantinides also previously asked the DOT to assess whether Shore Boulevard could close to allow more space for pedestrians. The Astoria native also called for the Parks Department to boost up the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) around Astoria Park to ensure COVID-19 social distancing guidelines are practiced.
According to a Parks Department spokesperson, the city increased the presence of NYPD, PEP officers and Urban Park Rangers to enforce social distancing in parks in early March.
“Our PEP and Rangers are actively patrolling parks citywide to educate park patrons about social distancing, coordinating with the NYPD on any sites that are experiencing overcrowding and taking enforcement action as needed,” the Parks Department spokesperson said. “Additionally, we have deployed over 200 public program staff across the five boroughs to act as Parks Ambassadors to assist in this effort.”
The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA) agrees there should be more PEP enforcement and the closure of Shore Boulevard is a necessary safety measure during COVID-19. But they ask the closure to be temporary, as they say it offers access to the waterfront for disabled residents, seniors and service vehicles.
“Shore Boulevard has been an issue regarding noise and rowdy behavior for the last 40 years,” OANA’s President Richard Khuzami wrote. “Closures were tried in the past, and it just led to the party moving to residential streets around the park and also the park’s parking lot. This caused even worse disruption to the quality of life of local residents.”
OANA noted parking on Shore Boulevard is also temporarily closed, according to the 114th Precinct.
“Parks are essential at this time, but visitors must use their common sense — we continue to strongly urge all New Yorkers to maintain six feet of distance between each other. Please do not overcrowd each other, there is space for everyone,” said the Parks Department spokesperson.
NYC Parks closed all skate parks, volleyball courts, handball, tennis courts, dog runs, bocce courts and playgrounds in order to maintain social distancing. Additionally, while solo exercise is permitted, all team sports (basketball, soccer, football, etc.) are not permitted.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced the closure of all NYC public pools from late June until Labor Day — which includes the Astoria Park pool, one of the largest in the city.