The end of Pier A Park at Hoboken waterfront

Our city, our country and the world are facing a crisis like no other in our lifetimes. Hoboken and our entire county are at risk due to the deadly coronavirus. The best advice is to stay at home. But for those of us who choose to go out, we must practice social distancing at a minimum of six feet. If we are to continue to enjoy our parks and public spaces in this time of crisis, observing these protocols are mandatory. 

As of today, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced an additional 16 cases of the coronavirus bringing the total to 56. Clearly, we are faced with a prolonged crisis and everyone’s cooperation is needed to minimize the risks that our community faces.

Our parks impart many health benefits, both physical and emotional. Along the waterfront, although the park is narrow in most places, the open space over the Hudson River is vast and brings in fresh New York Harbor breezes. New research from Finland and Japan has proven that even short walks of as little as 20 minutes in an urban park had positive effects on mood, blood pressure and stress levels. The many benefits of sunshine and exercise are unquestionable.

Densely populated urban centers are especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus. New York City, with 28,000 people per square mile, has become the epicenter of this deadly disease in the United States. Hoboken, referred to as the “miracle mile” city, is actually 1.27 square miles and its growing population is close to 54,000 people, making it one of the most densely populated municipalities in the country.

By March 12, the City of Hoboken Office of Emergency Management declared a State of Emergency. All non-essential City events were cancelled and the City’s recreational fields and facilities were closed. On March 13, the first known case of coronavirus was reported in Hoboken. 

That weekend, Hoboken’s bars and restaurants had been filled to capacity. A bar fight resulted in a person falling unconscious and due to an overwhelmed EMS, it took 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. On Saturday, the Mayor directed all bars and restaurants to stop serving within their establishments. He ordered all gyms, health clubs, daycare facilities and movie theatres to close as well.

That same weekend, spring-like weather prompted large clusters of people to gather at Hoboken’s parks. Many ignored the directive to observe social distancing. By the end of the week, Mayor Bhalla threatened to close parks unless social distancing was strictly observed. 

On March 17, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla ordered its residents to self-isolate and only leave home for essential needs. He was the first mayor in the tri-state area to do so. Gatherings were limited to five people or less. People were ordered to practice social distancing of at least six feet in City parks and elsewhere. 

Most Hoboken residents live in small apartments, posing a problem for families now confined to their homes. Hoboken’s open space deficit, shuttered playgrounds and recreational facilities, and narrow sidewalks further exacerbate the problem. Walking, running and cycling are also part of many people’s daily routine and considered important for staying healthy, assuming social distancing is observed. 

On March 21, after Italy’s death toll due to the coronavirus leapt by 627 in a single day, the national government closed its parks and public gardens. As of today, 69,176 people in Italy have been infected and 6,820 have died. Some predict that the United States will follow a similar trajectory as the disease proliferates.

Hopefully, those using Hoboken’s parks now recognize the dire situation our community faces and will adhere to the necessary protocols.