New York City to hold ticker-tape parade for essential COVID-19 workers

(Reuters) – New York City will hold a ticker-tape parade next month for essential workers to honor their heroism on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

The parade will be held along the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, July 7. For generations, ticker-tape parades in the largest U.S. city have been typically reserved for championship sports clubs, astronauts and war veterans.

“We are going to hold a parade to honor them, to thank them and to celebrate them,” de Blasio said in a video statement released by his office. “This one will have a special spirit to it, a special heart and soul because it’s about celebrating everyday New Yorkers who did something so heroic.”

In addition to health care workers, the parade will honor police officers, teachers and transportation workers, who went to their jobs each day during the pandemic despite the risks.

More than 33,000 people lost their lives to COVID-19 in New York City, once an epicenter of the outbreak, as hospitals were besieged and streets virtually devoid of human activity.

“It has literally been the greatest crisis in the history of New York City. We were knocked down, but got back up,” de Blasio said.

In announcing the parade, de Blasio also urged New Yorkers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with the city’s rate of fully vaccinated residents standing at 47% as of Monday, according to the city’s health department.

New York City, with 8.3 million people, reported a 0.59% seven-day average positivity rate and only 50 new hospitalizations on Monday. Most indoor capacity restrictions throughout the city were lifted in May, though masking requirements remain in place.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)

New York City plans Central Park concert to mark pandemic comeback

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York will host a concert in Central Park featuring an undisclosed line-up of major musical artists in August to mark the city’s comeback from the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

The live music event is part of a week-long citywide celebration of the city – once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic – as vaccination rates rise and the virus abates.

“This is going to be an amazing, memorable once-in-a-lifetime week in New York City,” the mayor told a news conference.

De Blasio did not announce a line-up or a date for the concert, although the New York Times reported it is tentatively set for Aug. 21 in Central Park’s Great Lawn.

Clive Davis, a legendary music industry figure, will pull together the huge event that will feature an “all-star” roster of artists, according to de Blasio.

The Times reported that the concert will have vaccinated and unvaccinated sections, with about 70% of tickets going to vaccinated individuals.

Encouraged by the warm weather, the city’s streets, restaurants and parks are once again teeming with activity, a sight unseen during the long months when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the metropolis.

On Monday, de Blasio said, New York City clocked the lowest positivity rate since the pandemic began at 0.71%. Nearly 4.5 million people have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as officials offer prizes and other incentives to push those still reluctant to get the shots.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a separate news conference on Monday that the state would lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions when 70% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 1.4% away from the current rate.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

New York City Marathon returns after 2020 COVID-19 cancellation

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A limited field of 33,000 runners will return to the starting line for the 50th running of the New York City Marathon in November after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event that draws thousands of cheering fans to the Big Apple will take place on Nov. 7.

“The New York City Marathon is a reminder of everything New Yorkers can accomplish with persistence, hard work, and community support,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

“As we build a recovery for all of us, there’s no better time to safely reconnect with the iconic events that make our city great.”

The 26.2-mile (42.2 km) race, typically the final of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors run each year, is hugely popular with amateur runners and professionals alike and saw a record 53,627 finishers in 2019, the last time it was contested.

New York Road Runners, which puts on the event each year, said runners will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccine and must adhere to government guidelines around travel and quarantine.

Organizers plan to use “a controllable and scalable time-trial start format” to reduce congestion at the start and finish.

“While cancelling the race was the right choice in 2020, we are excited to welcome runners back to our beautiful city,” said governor Andrew Cuomo.

“New Yorkers worked hard to flatten the curve after the COVID-19 outbreak and it is that work that allows us to be able to take this step in bringing normalcy back to our state.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

New York City to deploy more patrols in Times Square after shooting

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – More New York police officers will patrol Times Square after a shooting last weekend that injured three people, including a child, the mayor said on Monday as he sought to reassure visitors that the city is safe as it reopens after the yearlong coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the New York Police Department would add an unspecified number of officers from the Critical Response Command, one of the force’s first lines of defense against a terrorist attack, to patrols in Times Square, a popular tourist attraction.

“We’re putting additional NYPD resources in the Times Square area to add an extra measure of protection,” de Blasio said. “It will be use of our CRC officers in Times Square. You’ll see additional presence.”

Police on Monday were still searching for a man they identified as a “person of interest” in the shooting that wounded innocent bystanders just before 5 p.m. Friday local time. The attack stemmed from a domestic dispute, authorities said.

Among those wounded was a child from Brooklyn whose family brought her to Times Square to buy toys, said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. She and the two other victims – a 23-year-old female tourist from Rhode Island and a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey – were not related to one another or to the shooting itself, Shea said.

The 4-year-old and 23-year-old were shot in the leg and the 43-year-old was shot in the foot, Shea said.

Times Square, which had a reputation for seediness in the 1970s and 80s, has more recently burnished its image and drawn tourists to “the Crossroads of the World,” as a result of soaring property values and gentrification.

After COVID-19 forced a year-long shutdown of New York, once the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, de Blasio has vowed to “fully reopen” the city by July 1.

The shooting, he said, will not affect tourism.

“In the end, people want to come to this city. It is an overwhelmingly safe city. When you look at New York compared to cities around the country, around the world, this is a very safe place.”

Tourism in New York is already picking up faster than anticipated, de Blasio said.

“People are starting to come here much earlier than I thought they would. I thought it would go into the summer before we would see that kind of comeback. It’s happening now,” the mayor said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

New York mayor says city will ‘fully reopen’ on July 1

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that officials plan to “fully reopen” the city on July 1 after more than a year of coronavirus-induced closures and low-intensity operations.

“We are ready for stores to open for businesses to open offices, theaters — full strength,” de Blasio said on MSNBC.

The mayor said much of the reason for his optimism for the country’s largest city being able to get back to a normal level of operating was that 6.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the city of some 8.3 million people.

“What we’re seeing is people have gotten vaccinated in extraordinary numbers,” he said. “We know the vaccination effort is going to grow and grow,” he added “We’ve got to keep working hard at that.”

It was not immediately clear how the mayor’s plans would square with those of the state government, which has control over operating restrictions on restaurants and other businesses.

Broadway theaters have started to reopen this month for special events in front of limited indoor audiences. Many producers have targeted June 1 for their reopening dates.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

New York City high school students to return to classroom on March 22: mayor

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Public high schools in New York City will welcome students back for in-person instruction on March 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday, the latest step by the United States’ largest school system to open classrooms shuttered due to COVID-19.

“We have all the pieces we need to bring high school back and bring it back strong, and, of course, bring it back safely,” de Blasio told a news conference. “We are bringing our schools back fully in September, period.”

The mayor has made restarting in-person instruction a priority, even as health experts have warned that teenagers are more likely to spread the virus than younger children, making the reopening of public high schools riskier than lower grades.

Students in Los Angeles, Chicago and other big cities have been shut out of the classroom since last year, as officials struggle to come to agreements with teacher unions on restarting in-person classes prior to widespread vaccinations.

Sari Rosenberg, who teaches at high school in Manhattan, said she misses the classroom but believes the risk remains too high given that teenagers can spread the disease without symptoms and teachers and staff are still getting inoculated.

“I think that it’s premature,” Rosenberg said.

Reopening the city’s public high schools will serve as the first major test for incoming schools chancellor Meisha Porter, who will take over from Richard Carranza this month. Carranza resigned from the post last month.

Porter said on Monday that about 55,000 high schoolers — out of a total population of 282,000 high school students — will resume in-person education on March 22.

New York City shut down schools in mid-November due to an increasing COVID-19 infection rate and has gradually brought students back to classrooms, starting with the youngest students and followed by middle school students last month.

De Blasio had promised high school students would not be far behind.

New York City’s school system is the largest in the United States with 1.1 million students and 1,800 buildings.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Nathan Layne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

New York City to enforce quarantine order for U.K. travelers with home visits -mayor

(Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said members of the city Sheriff’s office would start paying home visits to enforce a quarantine order for travelers from the United Kingdom in an effort to stop the spread of a new COVID-19 variant found in that country.

De Blasio said that all international travelers to New York City would start receiving a Department of Health Commissioner’s order to quarantine, delivered via certified mail, and travelers could face a $1000 fine per day for violating the rules.

The city Sheriff’s office will check on travelers from the U.K. at their homes or hotels to ensure compliance, de Blasio said, taking extra precaution out of concern that those travelers could bring a new, highly transmissible variant of the virus to New York.

“We’re going to provide them with that commissioner’s order, but then there’s going to be a follow up, direct home visit or hotel visit from the sheriff’s deputy to confirm that they are following the quarantine,” de Blasio said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

New York City changes admissions at many schools to ease racial segregation

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City is overhauling how it admits students to some of its most competitive public schools to make them less segregated by race and wealth, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.

Some selective Manhattan high schools, particularly in wealthy neighborhoods, are allowed to give children who live nearby priority in admissions, which has tended to put children living in poorer neighborhoods at a disadvantage. These so-called geographic priorities will be ended over the coming two years, making it easier for children from anywhere to apply for a spot, the mayor said at a news conference.

The city will also end “screening” practices at hundreds of middle schools that admit students based on a mixture of grades, test results, attendance rates.

These practices led to disproportionately high admissions of white and Asian students and fewer Black and Latino students in the best-performing schools in the nation’s largest and most diverse education system, which serves some 1.1 million children. Admissions will instead be determined by a random lottery.

“We have been doing this work for seven years to more equitably redistribute resources throughout our school system,” de Blasio told reporters. “I think these changes will improve justice and fairness.”

Although calls to overhaul school admissions long predate the novel coronavirus pandemic, the disruption caused by school closures to stem the spread of COVID-19 was a factor in the overhaul: for example, some state exams were canceled and attendance rates became more difficult to track, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told reporters.

The New York Civil Liberties Union welcomed the changes but said they should have come sooner, and called for the permanent removal of screening at the high-school level.

“It should not have taken a pandemic to finally remove discriminatory admissions screens for children applying to middle school and to remove the egregious district priorities that concentrate wealth and resources into a few schools,” NYCLU organizer Toni Smith-Thompson said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Tom Brown)

New York police lacked training, used excessive force during summer protests, city investigation finds

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Police Department used excessive force during the wave of protests across the city this summer against police brutality and racism, according to a report published on Friday morning by New York City’s Department of Investigation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio asked for the investigation in May as social media became deluged with cellphone videos showing police officers dousing protesters, elected officials and journalists with chemical irritants, shoving and hitting them while they struggled on the ground and, in one instance, driving police vehicles into them.

The report said the NYPD’s response was excessive in part because most police officers involved had not received “relevant training” in policing protests.

“The NYPD’s use of force and certain crowd control tactics to respond to the Floyd protests produced excessive enforcement that contributed to heightened tensions,” the Department of Investigation said in the executive summary of its 111-page report.

The daily New York City protests were a prominent part of what quickly became a nationwide and international movement prompted in part by anger over George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in her Louisville home by white police officers during a botched raid.

De Blasio, who repeatedly defended his police department’s conduct during the protests, said he agreed with the report’s findings.

“It makes very clear we’ve got to do something different, and we’ve got to do something better,” he said in a video statement released by City Hall.

The report concluded that the city’s unusual system of three distinct, sometimes overlapping agencies conducting oversight of the police department had caused problems. It recommended that the city create a single independent police oversight agency.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in a statement called the summer a “difficult period” and thanked the Department of Investigation for “20 logical and thoughtful recommendations that I intend to incorporate into our future policy and training.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Winter storm set to deliver disruptive blow to U.S. Northeast

By Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A major winter storm was making its way up the U.S. East Coast on Wednesday, ready to deliver a disruptive blow to the region, with up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow in parts of the Northeast and freezing rain in some Mid-Atlantic areas, forecasters said.

The Nor’easter, which was already bringing a wintry mix of precipitation to Virginia and North Carolina early in the day, was moving up the coast that is home to more than 50 million people before exiting the Boston area on Thursday afternoon, they said.

Meteorologist Bob Oravec of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said the forecast could have been worse if not for the speed at which the system was traveling.

“It’s not a slow-moving system at all, so it’s not going to be a very prolonged snow event,” Oravec said by phone.

Ground zero for snow accumulation is an area that includes several ski resorts stretching from central Pennsylvania to upstate New York, where 18 to 24 inches was expected, Oravec said.

“Typically, when you have a big snowstorm like this, you can have snow totals one to two inches plus per hour,” he added.

But a much larger area that includes the New York City area is likely to get more than a foot of snow, he said.

New York City officials began warning residents on Tuesday of the potential for hazardous travel and urged people to stay off the roads.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that it was shaping up to be the first major snowstorm in a couple of years, “and people need to take it seriously.”

New York City schools, which just recently reopened their classrooms after a brief pandemic-induced shutdown, were set to go fully remote on Thursday when students are likely to wake up to more than a foot of snow on the ground, de Blasio said. The snow could significantly reduce visibility and potentially cripple travel in places, while winds of up to 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) could down trees and power lines, causing power outages, the weather service said.

Many areas of North Carolina and southwestern Virginia were expected to get freezing rain that will leave a quarter-inch of ice on the roads, the service said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brian in Chicago)