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)

New York City public schools will begin to reopen with weekly COVID-19 testing

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s public schools will begin to reopen for in-person learning on Dec. 7, starting with elementary schools for students whose parents agree to a weekly testing regimen for the novel coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday.

The schools, which make up the country’s largest school system, were closed less than two weeks ago after the citywide rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive exceeded a 3% benchmark agreed to by the mayor and the teachers’ union.

“It’s a new approach because we have so much proof now of how safe schools can be,” de Blasio told reporters, saying the 3% benchmark was being scrapped and pointing to research that shows young children appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19. On Sunday, the city’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests was 3.9%, de Blasio said.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who joined the mayor at a news conference, said with the new measures he believed the city could “safely and successfully keep our schools open for the duration of this pandemic.”

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the labor union was supportive of the mayor’s phased reopening so long as “stringent testing was in place.”

New York City, which teaches more than 1.1 million students in its public schools, was one of the few jurisdictions in the United States to attempt to reopen schools in the autumn as the country continues to struggle with the world’s deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, and its efforts are being widely watched. But it closed classrooms back down in mid-November, less than eight weeks after they had begun to offer in-class lessons.

Some New Yorkers were frustrated to see schools close down again while gyms were allowed to operate and restaurants could offer indoor dining in most areas under rules enforced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has publicly feuded with de Blasio over how best to tamp down the virus’ spread.

“I think that’s the right direction,” Cuomo said of the mayor’s announcement on a later conference call with reporters. Health experts said schools “should be kept open whenever it’s possible to keep them open safely,” he said.

Pre-kindergarten classes will also reopen Dec. 7 alongside elementary schools. Schools that serve children with special educational needs, known as District 75 schools, will reopen Dec. 10. De Blasio said middle schools and high schools would reopen at later dates that had not yet been set.

Many families had opted for remote learning even as classrooms reopened in September, but the city also offered “blended” learning, with students attending in-person classes a few days each week if they agreed to monthly coronavirus tests.

With the reopening of schools next month, to enter a classroom, students must have a signed consent form agreeing to coronavirus testing or a letter of medical exemption from a doctor, de Blasio said. Tests will be soon be carried out in schools on a weekly, not monthly, basis, but only about a fifth of students will be tested in a given week.

The mayor said the plan was to have in-person learning five days a week where possible when schools reopen.

The governor retains the power to override the city and close schools in neighborhoods where the test positivity rate surges, de Blasio noted. The city will also monitor schools’ coronavirus test results, and may close down any individual classrooms or entire schools where multiple cases are reported.

The United States has reported over 4 million new cases so far in November and over 35,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tally, with more hospitalizations than ever this year and deaths reaching their highest level in six months.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Additional reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Leslie Adler)

David Dinkins, New York’s first and only Black mayor, dies at 93

By Derek Francis

(Reuters) – David Dinkins, who served as New York City’s first and only African-American mayor during the 1990s, died on Monday at the age of 93, police said.

His death appeared to be of natural causes, Detective Adam Navarro of the city’s police department told Reuters.

Born in 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins attended Howard University and Brooklyn Law School.

He eventually came to Harlem, the historically Black neighborhood in upper Manhattan, where he rose in the ranks of local politics.

“I’m feeling something painful in my heart right now. I’m feeling like a loss and an emptiness because he’s gone,” an emotional New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday. “But I also really feel his guidance still, his presence. And we’re going to keep going, we’re going to continue his fight.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the many others paying tribute to Dinkins.

“For decades, Mayor Dinkins led with compassion and an unparalleled commitment to our communities,” James said in a statement. “New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and continue to be moved by his towering legacy.”

“The first and the only Black mayor of NYC, he cherished our “gorgeous mosaic” & served the city & state over a career spanning decades with the hope of unity and a deep kindness,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

In Harlem, Dinkins formed part of a group of Black power brokers, known as the “Gang of Four,” that included congressman Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson, the father of future New York Governor David Paterson.

Dinkins defeated the three-term incumbent Democrat Mayor Ed Koch in the primary and then Republican prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 mayoral race.

Giuliani, who would come back to defeat Dinkins four years later, was among the first to pay tribute.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recognized the former mayor’s achievements in a statement on Tuesday. “Winning his election against all odds, he showed us what was possible at a time when opportunities were limited.”

New York, during Dinkins’ term, was battling high crime, a fierce economic recession and the AIDS epidemic.

But it was his role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot that would most define his mayoralty.

The riot was sparked in the racially divided Brooklyn neighborhood by the acquittal of a young black man, Lemrick Nelson, in the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Jewish student.

Speaking in 2011, Dinkins remembered his handling of the riot as one of his chief regrets.

“The thing that hurt the most, I suppose, was to be accused by some of permitting – holding the police back – and permitting young blacks to attack Jews,” Dinkins said, according to the New York Times.

“And this was untrue, inaccurate and not so, and that’s kind of painful. But if I had it to do over again, I would have said maybe 24 hours earlier to the police, ‘What you’re doing isn’t working,’ which I finally said.”

(Reporting by Derek Francis; additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Berkrot)