New York City workers were seen welding shut the gates of a playground in Brooklyn on Monday, one day after a demonstration in the borough saw thousands of attendees.
On Sunday, thousands gathered at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza for a Black Trans Lives Matter rally. Despite the protests, New York City remains under the “phase 1” stage of the state’s reopening plan, allowing retail businesses to operate curbside pickup while large gatherings are still technically banned.
Local observers filmed city park workers welding the gates of Middleton Playground, which is frequented by members of the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg.
“Every playground in the City is closed. This is a matter of health and safety,” Jane Meyer, deputy press secretary for the New York Mayor’s Office, told National Review in an email.
“In recent weeks, people have broken the locks and chains at this playground and breached the site multiple times,” a spokesperson for New York City Parks and Recreation told National Review. “This morning, we had to secure the location and did not have our typical resources available so as a short term fix we welded one of four entrances shut. This is a reversible procedure, and we plan to unweld this entrance today and replace the locks and chains.”
State Assemblyman Joe Lentol, whose district includes Williamsburg, criticized the decision to close the playground.
“Welding the doors shut at Middleton Playground during a time when our children need the open space to run and play is UNACCEPTABLE,” Lentol wrote on Twitter. “I will be calling upon Mayor de Blasio to open the gates at the Middleton Playground to allow children to play.”
Middleton Playground was closed on May 31, along with ten other locations, because of social-distancing violations.
“Today we will be closing 10 playgrounds where we have consistently found a lack of regard for social distancing,” de Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein wrote on Twitter at the time. In a video uploaded on June 1, officers were seen removing families from Middleton Playground.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended his decision to keep some lockdown measures in place even as massive demonstrations have roiled the city. Since the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers, demonstrations have erupted across the U.S., with rioting and looting in major cities including New York.
“When you see . . . an entire nation, simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seated in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” de Blasio said in a press conference earlier this month.
De Blasio and New York governor Andrew Cuomo are facing a lawsuit by two Catholic Priests and three Orthodox Jewish congregants, who argue that the state’s reopening policies discriminated against religious institutions.