HUDSON COUNTY, NJ - Hudson County residents will learn more about who manages their parks, as certain entities are attempting to re-open spaces to the public while others are remaining cautious amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Governor Phil Murphy announced that he was signing an executive order that would permit the reopening of state and county parks, as well as golf courses, starting at the crack of dawn on Saturday, May 2. Those parks had been closed since April 7, and pressure to reopen them has been steadily building ever since.
The State’s move comes days after Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop announced that he would green-light the reopening of five city-run parks—Enos Jones Park, Berry Lane Park, Audubon Park, Leonard Gordon Park, and Pershing Field.
“We aren’t pushing to open everything BUT we also need to slowly shift the conversation towards a gradual return to living life,” said Fulop. “We want to take careful ‘baby steps’ forward as this is important to mental health.”
Anecdotal reports indicate that Jersey City’s reopening has been fairly snag-free. Crowds are minimal, although social distancing protocols and facemasks are hit or miss. Reacting to Murphy’s subsequent announcement, Fulop said, “Opening worked in Jersey City, [and it’s] good to see a change from Governor Murphy’s previous position.” Parks should be open + we need to continue moving in a positive direction (carefully) but moving. There’s no risk-free environment, but we can trust residents that they’ll make smart choices.”
Locally, that means Liberty State Park will reopen, offering one of the largest open spaces in the New York Metro Area. Social distancing protocols will be in place, and reportedly enforced by personnel if necessary.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Mayors in Hoboken, Union City, Guttenberg, West New York, North Bergen and Weehawken announced their unified decision to keep all municipal parks in the respective municipalities closed until further notice, citing the impact of COVID-19 in their communities.
“As Mayors in the most densely populated county in the country with over 14,000 COVID-19 infections, we strongly believe that leaving all municipal parks closed in our respective cities is in the best interest of public health,” said a joint statement from Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Mayor Brian Stack, Mayor Wayne Zitt, Mayor Nick Sacco, Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez and Mayor Richard Turner. “While we are planning for the eventual re-opening of our parks and know how important they are to our residents, we remain concerned about the potential overcrowding and enforcement of social distancing. Out of an abundance of caution, we made the collective decision to keep our municipal parks closed until further notice.”
Parks in those municipalities will reopen soon, but for now that decision is on hold.
In Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis maintained the belief that “it’s important that people get out of the house for a brief time stretch their legs, get some air," and kept city parks open for passive use.
“We thank Governor Murphy for working with us to allow each city to make these respective decisions and look forward to collaborating with County Executive Tom DeGise and our Freeholders to make final decisions on County parks by the end of the week.”
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