NYC to deploy 1,000+ additional ‘social-distancing ambassadors’ after racial disparity in summonses

May 11, 2020

Roughly 2,300 city employees will be dispatched across the five boroughs to enforce social distancing rules, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday. The so-called “social distancing ambassadors” will be stationed in public places to remind people to keep six feet from others and to hand out free face coverings. The mayor said New Yorkers have overwhelmingly done the right thing throughout the current health crisis, but reminders and enforcement are still needed. “We still need the ability to enforce these rules when needed and only when needed,” de Blasio said during a press briefing.

Starting this weekend, the city will increase the number of city workers acting as “social distancing ambassadors” from 1,000 to 2,300. The non-NYPD employees are tasked with reminding New Yorkers to keep a distance from others and providing free face masks to those who need them.

The effort comes after data released by the city’s police department showed 81 percent of the people who received summonses for social distancing violations were black or Hispanic.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, NYPD data released last Friday shows that between March 16 and May 5, officers issued 374 summonses for social-distancing infractions. Of the total summonses, 193 were given to black residents and 111 to Hispanic residents, according to the NYPD.

“The last thing we want to see is enforcement if there’s any other way to get the job done,” de Blasio said on Sunday. The mayor also pointed to the small number of summonses, saying fewer than 10 summonses were issued per day across the city throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, de Blasio said the city will limit capacity at Hudson River Park and Domino Park after photos of the parks packed with people went viral on social media. Capacity will be limited at Pier 45 and Pier 46, with the city’s police department preventing entry if the park becomes too crowded.

And Domino Park in Williamsburg, the city plans to increase NYPD presence and “closely monitor” the waterfront park. Police could also limit the time visitors can spend there.


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