JERSEY CITY, NJ - Some Hudson County and Jersey City officials are hoping to get Gov. Phil Murphy to reverse his decision that closed large county and state parks. Hudson County had kept its larger parks open until an executive order by Murphy ordered them closed in efforts to help stunt the spread of COVID-19.
“I can understand closing Columbus County Park in Hoboken because it is so small, but the larger parks should be left often because people have room to keep a safe distance in them,” Freeholder Anthony Romano, his colleague, Freeholder Bill O’Dea, adding parks such as Lincoln Park in Jersey City and Braddock Park in North Bergen as those large enough to allow residents to enjoyed outdoor space while also adhering to established social distancing guidelines.
Freeholder Jerry Walker has shared his concerns that the park closures are exacerbating the recent violence, including the shooting death of a 17-year-old girl, that has plagued the section of Jersey City he represents. “People are still going outside,” he said, noting many are seeking open space. “The longer this goes on the more trouble there will be. If everything is closed, what happens to our young people?”
Calling the decision to close state parks “wrong for public health and our State’s residents,” Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-29) is among the cadre of legislators that have encouraged Murphy to reverse the closures. Sharing his belief that the policy was enacted “based purely on anecdotes and without any data or health science to support that decision,” the Morris County based lawmaker said that “safely and responsibly using our State’s open spaces should continue to be encouraged, not prohibited” to help lessen the negative impact of “stay home” order.
Noting that public health guidance encourages residents to get outdoor exercise, Downtown Jersey City based Councilman James Solomon acknowledged that doing so, while keeping a distance from other, is a particular challenge in “in crowded urban areas.”
“One solution: opening streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, and emergency vehicles only,” Solomon suggested as he said has been done in Denver and other cities. “There can be clear lanes for walking and running in the same direction to reduce the potential for passing each other. It is unlikely groups of people will congregate in the middle of a street as they might in a park.”
“I asked Mayor Fulop and our transportation team to review and I hope we will implement it.”
In Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis has announced that city parks will remain open for “passive use” which he defined as walking, jogging, or bike riding. “As this crisis lingers on I feel it’s important that people get out of the house for a brief time stretch their legs, get some air.”
To date, Davis added, he has seen families and others adhering to social guidelines but, he warned, if that changes, if groups start congregating or entering restricted areas such as playgrounds or basketball courts, they will be shut down.
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