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A New York state senator says he and other lawmakers will “cut off the chains” and open New York City’s playgrounds unless Mayor Bill de Blasio orders them open within “a few days.”
State Sen. Simcha Felder slammed the Democratic mayor on Monday, accusing him of “catering” to donors and supporters by allowing playgrounds to remain open in some city districts, while chaining and welding gates shut in others.
“It’s a tale of two cities,” Felder, also a Democrat, told The Daily Wire. “Wealthier neighborhoods like Central Park and the east side of Manhattan, there’s certain playgrounds in certain neighborhoods, somehow the playgrounds and parks are open.”
“In other neighborhoods they’re closed,” Felder continued. “[De Blasio] is doing whatever he likes. He is catering to the people that support him most.”
A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation denied Felder’s claim, telling The Daily Wire that all playgrounds across the city are closed “to keep our children safe.” One instance of city workers welding a playground’s gate shut was a temporary measure after the playground was broken into, the latest in over two dozen such instances at that playground. The parks department is planning to break the weld and replace the chain and lock as soon as possible, the spokeswoman said.
Felder’s district stretches from Sunset Park to Madison in south Brooklyn. He and state assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein and city councilman Kalman Yeger rallied at a park in Midwood on Sunday demanding that the mayor open all parks across the city. The lawmakers say that opening parks and playgrounds is not a question of allowing for greater spread of the coronavirus, but of giving children a safe place to play.
“The kids are playing with each other. There’s no question about that,” Felder said. “The kids are playing with each other, they are playing in the street, they are playing in unsafe conditions instead of having the playgrounds open.”
.@NYCMayor: Don’t leave kids behind. OPEN THE PLAYGROUNDS NOW!
Playgrounds + school yards are essential to children. They need a place to play that’s safe.
— Simcha Eichenstein (@SEichenstein) June 14, 2020
“What does this guy want? Does he want to ensure his legacy of being the most incompetent mayor in New York City? If that’s the case, yeah, then that makes sense,” Felder said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered all playgrounds across the state closed on April 1, claiming that residents were flocking to the open areas and not social distancing. He lifted the order late last week, telling local officials to decide whether playgrounds will reopen.
Felder said that de Blasio’s decision to open some parks and not others is either calculated to benefit his political allies, or retribution for critics.
“He clearly, over the last few weeks, has become more vengeful and paranoid about what’s going on in the city,” Felder said. New York City’s fight against the coronavirus, which Felder said started too late because the mayor “laughed off this pandemic early on,” has been complicated in recent weeks by massive protests and riots over George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody on Memorial Day.
De Blasio has voiced support for the protesters, even praising his daughter when she was arrested while demonstrating, in a marked departure from how he treated protesters demanding an end to the shutdown. In early May, NYC police arrested nine protesters for violating social distancing rules while calling for the state to reopen.
“If somebody said to me that the reason he closed [the playgrounds] was because we asked him to open them, I wouldn’t be shocked,” Felder said. “We asked respectfully, we asked nicely. I don’t know, maybe if I got down on my knees or maybe if we had a riot, it would be okay.”
Felder says that he and others intend to open the playgrounds themselves “in a few days” if de Blasio does not give the order.
“I am giving you a commitment that in a short amount of time, if they don’t open the playgrounds – it’s not only me – many colleagues and elected officials are going to go to the playgrounds ourselves,” Felder said. “It’s not a big deal, you get a chain-cutter and open the playgrounds. And if they lock it again, we’ll cut it again.”
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