Beaches will open for Memorial Day, but not in NYC 1

A lonely day on Rockaway Beach.

State and local beaches will open for Memorial Day weekend under certain guidelines, Gov. Cuomo announced Friday, but Rockaway will not be one of them.

Local beaches may open if they meet the guidelines, but Mayor de Blasio says city beaches will not open. De Blasio said reopening is “not in the cards” for the city.

That means that state-run Jones Beach in Nassau County, as well as others farther east, will open Friday, May 22, while city-run Rockaway Beach in Queens will remain closed.

Cuomo made the announcement during his Friday press briefing on the coronavirus crisis, saying that in order for a shoreline park to open, the authorities must:

• keep the beach at 50 percent capacity at the most by controlling entrances and exits and limiting parking; 

• keep all concession stands closed;

• prohibit group activities including sports such as volleyball and football;

• keep areas of social gathering such as picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, arcades and amusement rides closed;

• enforce social distancing rules for employees and visitors;

• require masks be worn by employees and visitors when social distancing is not possible; and

• ensure staff levels are adequate to achieve the mandates and enforce crowd control.

The measures are part of an agreement reached among New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware to open their beaches under similar guidelines.

“We are one multistate region,” Cuomo said. “What one state does will affect other states. That is probably nowhere more clear than when it comes to opening beaches. One state doesn’t open beaches, another state does open beaches, you will see people flood to that state.”

Lower levels of government — city, town, village or county — may add further restrictions to the beach protocols the state is mandating.

De Blasio, at a media event Friday, said people can expect to see police presence this weekend, including at beaches, in order to prevent gatherings.

"You'll also see in the beaches, which of course are not open, enhanced patrols to keep people safe and to remind people that beaches are not open and to protect against any danger that people will go in the water," the mayor said, according to a transcript issued by his office. "You'll see that in the Rockaways, Coney Island, Orchard Beach, and we're going to make sure in terms of addressing those large gatherings, there'll be a dedicated NYPD car in every police precinct that will focus always on being able to get to wherever a large gathering might be to make sure that situation is addressed."

On Sunday he reiterated his stance with Maria Bartiromo of Fox News.

“We know that the beaches will be open for Memorial Day,” Bartiromo said. Is New York City going to be the last place in the country to open?

“Yeah, we’re not going to do that in New York City, Maria,” de Blasio replied.

“And you know — you grew up not far from Coney Island, you know that our beach is very crowded very quickly,” he continued. “We're not going to allow it. So, what I said today is we're not opening on Memorial Day as we normally do. For folks in the local community who walk on the beach, walk on the boardwalk, they could still do that. But no swimming, no lifeguards, no congregating.”

He added that the NYPD and the Parks Department “will be out there,” and that if people do not follow the rules, the city could put up fencing to keep people off the beach.”

In a graphic image saying the beaches will be closed, the city did say they might open later in the summer depending on further reduction of COVID-19 and the resumption of activity and travel deemed nonessential. Lifeguards are being trained to ensure the beaches will be staffed if they open.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), on Twitter, thanked the administration for allowing the possibility that beaches may open later in summer. 

“I want to thank @NYCMayor (yes you read that right) & @NYCParks Commissioner @mitchell_silver for listening to the concerns of me and my constituents re: the opening of beaches in NYC... with the right amount of precaution, planning & cooperation we can all enjoy the sun and surf,” Ulrich said.

When the mayor first said beaches would not open for Memorial Day, back on April 16, the councilman had said the city had to find a way to open them by then, even if on a part-time basis, saying, “A full beach closure would be devastating to our local economy and difficult to enforce.” 

One beach near the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula, Jacob Riis Park, is federal, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It is open to the public for walking, running and other activities “in accordance with public health guidance,” but whether there will be lifeguards this season remains undetermined, National Park Service spokeswoman Brenda Ling told the Chronicle Monday via email.

Riis Park Bazaar is open for takeout only, Ling said, and Gateway hopes to have more details about the status of the beach’s parking lot later this week.

“The National Park Service (NPS) is following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, as we offer recreational access,” her email said. “The NPS is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.  

“Our operational approach continues to be centered on examining each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and work spaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.”

Anyone wanting more information is asked to visit nps.gov/gate and nps.gov/coronavirus for updates.

UPDATE

This article has been updated to include more commentary from Mayor de Blasio, comments from City Councilman Eric Ulrich and information about Jacob Riis Park.

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