Coronavirus Update: Coping with Cutbacks and Closures

The swings at Sol Lain Playground were empty April 2. Photo by Kari Jensen.

The swings at Sol Lain Playground were empty April 2. Photo by Kari Jensen.

This story was written by Kari Jensen.

New Yorkers looked for ways to make life more tolerable this week, amid continued cutbacks and closures during coronavirus lockdown. While some grocers and food vendors cut hours, the city closed its playgrounds and suspended composting and clothing recycling services.

Hector Agosto said he and wife are trying to practice social distancing, stay at home and avoid going out to public spaces unless necessary. He stood near an entrance to Essex Market, waiting for his wife who was shopping inside. “We’re trying to cook more (at home). We want to be outside as little as possible,” Agosto said. But, he added, that means they plan for shopping. “Everywhere is closing early. It sucks.”

Essex Market began closing at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. starting March 30. Before that, the food hall had already reduced its evening hours, plus most of the vendors in the Market Line (located below the Essex Market) had closed, except for Ends Meat and People’s Wine Shop.

Customers line up to enter Chinatown Supermarket of Manhattan on April 1. Photo by Kari Jensen.

Customers line up to enter Chinatown Supermarket of Manhattan on April 1. Photo by Kari Jensen.

The Chinatown Supermarket of Manhattan had cut its hours, as well, to 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., said Crystal Xu, the owner. But the biggest change started March 29, when the store began limiting the number of customers allowed inside. That meant customers had to line up outside, similar to how they have been doing at Trader Joe’s. “We were never ready for that. We’re a small market,” Xu said. But “people were being aggressive toward our staff and each other when buying stuff, so we restricted.”

So far, customers have lined up every day before the store opens and throughout the day, Xu said. Most are social distancing, standing about six feet apart (the distance recommend to reduce coronavirus transmission by health experts). The average wait in line is five to 15 minutes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also had social distancing and crowd reduction in mind when he called for city playgrounds, including basketball courts, to be closed starting April 1. But that left many challenged to find suitable outdoor activities for their stir-crazy kids. Many New Yorkers do not have cars and walk to nearby parks and playgrounds.

The basketball court at Henry M. Jackson Playground was quiet April 2.  Photo by Kari Jensen.

The basketball court at Henry M. Jackson Playground was quiet April 2. Photo by Kari Jensen.

On April 2, Samson Oshunrinde and his two sons looked for open playgrounds on the Lower East Side and in the Two Bridges area, close to their home. Oshunrinde walked, while Olu rode his scooter and Kai rode his bike. They tried going to Lillian D. Wald, Sol Lain and a few other playgrounds. “East River Park is open, but all the tennis courts, the basketball courts, the little soccer field and everything, they’re all closed,” Oshunrinde said.

Oshunrinde said he is not going to let the playground closures deter his efforts to get outside. “We (will) try to go for a walk where there’s not a lot of people.”

For more information and updates on playground closures, check here.

In order to limit person-to-person contact, the New York City Department of Sanitation also temporarily suspended some services, such as food scraps drop-offs and refashionNYC recycled clothing collection.

For updates on donations and resumption of services, check here: Composting  and here refashionNYC.

Jay Smith was at East River Park recently, getting fresh air and avoiding coronavirus cabin fever. He said he normally recycles his used clothing, but at this moment in time he is not thinking about that. “I’m cleaning my garage out. I’m clearing out everything for my spring cleaning,” Smith said, “for well-being for myself.”