Normally, a decision by Central Park to open Sheep Meadow, the sweeping lawn around 67th Street inside the park, would be met with cheers. But the conservancy’s choice to let people onto the lawn and others throughout the park as much of the rest of the city shuts down sparked a debate on social media on Saturday as thousands of people in the city tested positive for the coronavirus.
The conservancy said it is opening the lawn in order to give people more room to roam so that they’re not too crowded-together. “In order to assist Park users in safely practicing social distancing at this time, we are working to open all lawns that have been closed for the winter, the conservancy said on Instagram. “The Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, North Meadow, and East Meadow are open now.”
That led to some angry replies. “Anyone with common sense knows this is a terrible mistake. Central Park just DOES NOT GET IT,” wrote one person.
“This is ludicrous,” another wrote. “Nobody will do the right thing and this virus will take much longer to control.”
The conservancy responded to some of the criticism.
“I think it is great that the city is offering the option to be outdoors,” wrote one person. “It is essential for many people’s happiness to absorb sun and be around nature. I will still be precautious when I take a breather at Central Park.”
Hannah August, an Upper West Side resident, had reached out to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver to try to get him to open the lawns.
“I’m an UWS resident and am so grateful Commissioner Silver is opening all the lawns,” she told us.
Told about the criticism of the decision from some people, she wrote “From my perspective people will go no matter what, and should for their mental and physical health, so we should make it as spacious as possible for people to stay distant.”
The conservancy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
West Side Rag also received some criticism from commenters because we mentioned a new exercise group that has group classes for people who have to stand at least six feet away from each other. We reached out the organizers for a comment, but haven’t heard back. It’s a fair criticism — given the rising threat, people shouldn’t be exercising in groups even if they’re not bunched together.