Watch CBS News

City Cracks Down On Astoria Crowds After Videos Surface Showing People Not Following Social Distancing Rules

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The city is cracking down on people crowding the streets of Astoria after a number of large gatherings have been happening in front of restaurants and bars.

CBS2's Cory James reports Saturday night's crowds were not as large as Friday night's.

It's unclear if that's because sheriff's officers were standing on the sidewalk, monitoring the crowds. Some of them were in their patrol cars, telling drivers over the PA to not double park and keep moving.

Their arrival was a surprise to some who were expected a fun night out.

New York City sheriff's officers rolled right into Astoria, stopping at Steinway and Broadway, an area where large gatherings are taking place in front of bars and restaurants.

"Thursday night until four in the morning, there was loud music, cars double-parked. It's frustrating. It's frustrating," Astoria resident Nadia Oryema said.

"I heard somebody had a decibel reader and they got over 100 decibels. That's like airplane loud," Astoria resident Bill Bregoli said.

City Council Member Costa Constantinides released a statement that said, in part, "We understand many bars and restaurants are in dire straits because of the pandemic... That's no excuse, however, for the small few to turn our neighborhood into one giant resort bar... Every business that flouts the rules has to be shut down period."

Constantinides's statement continued, "To those out there partying until sunrise, stop. COVID-19 is still a serious threat, and just because you're young doesn't mean you're invincible... You also must respect the fact that others don't have the luxury to party until all hours of the morning. They need and deserve a good night's sleep, without your roughhousing, yelling, or relentless honking."

Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Saturday afternoon, calling the crowds "unacceptable."

"New Yorkers have made too many sacrifices to to fight COVID-19. We can't let up now," the mayor wrote. "We'll be out in Astoria and across the city tonight to make sure restaurants are doing their part to keep diners and their workers safe."

Around 8 p.m., officers were seen handing out masks to those not wearing them. It was a shock for some. Others appreciated it.

"Right now, we feel pretty protected because of the cops, of course," one woman said.

"I think they should show themselves so people are reminded we're in a pandemic and we don't get too comfortable, and like, the masks is like a nice cherry on top," Astoria resident Vasilios Sfinalolakis said.

Restaurant and bar owners were glad to see this, too.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "three strikes, you're closed" policy had some of them upset.

MORE: NYC Bar, Restaurant Owners Say It's Unfair To Make Them Enforce Social Distancing, Mask Wearing: 'I Got Into The Business Of Hospitality'

Restaurant owner Ramon Bavillo said they shouldn't be penalized for not enforcing social distancing and on Friday said "the police don't do nothing."

Now, he's relieved.

"We feel grateful to see all the police around here," Bavillo said.

Neighbors are hoping the presence of law enforcement will not just be a one-time thing because this, they say, has been happening for weeks.

"I just want to sleep. Kids have a good time, that's fine, but I'd like to sleep," Bregoli said.

"I hope that they'll be here at least like until late into the evening, yeah, because that's when things start to pick up," one woman said.

The owner of one bar in the area says he has a "pending strike" from the state because of the large crowds. He says he's going to try to fight it and show that people were out last night well after the bar closed.

In the meantime, he says the state has told him he has to shut down his outdoor street seating for at least a week.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.