Surfing, wading but not swimming, allowed at NYC beaches

Mayor de Blasio said the beaches are closed for swimming, restricting activity to walking and hanging out, but NYPD officials said beachgoers can go in up to their ankles and surfers can continue riding the waves.

While city beaches are open for pedestrians and surfers, the waters remain closed for swimming, though people can go “ankle-deep” into the waters, according to the latest city policy, to everyone except surfers.

The move marks a change from Mayor de Blasio’s previous insistence that anyone who goes into the water at city beaches, such as Rockaway, will be “taken right out of the water.” It was announced by the NYPD May 21.

“I’ve been really clear about the beaches,” de Blasio said at his May 22 press briefing. “They’ll be closed for swimming. There will not be lifeguards. People are not supposed to go to the beach to swim.”

The mayor had originally ordered the closure of beaches in their entirety, but changed his mind on May 15, where he announced the shores would be open for pedestrian use. The prohibition on swimming, however, has not changed.

“We want to make sure that people understand what the beach is for today: You can walk on the beach, hang out on the beach, but do it in a manner that is consistent with everything that we’ve been talking about,” said de Blasio, who just last week stated that if the beaches become too crowded the NYPD and Parks Department officials will step in to “send people off the beach, off the boardwalk.”

Although de Blasio barred his constituents from entering the waters this weekend, the NYPD announcement May 21 said that “You can go in ankle deep, wade in the water. Surfers will be allowed in the water, but will not be allowed to swim.”

Assistant Chief Brian Conroy, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, made the distinction at a Coney Island press briefing, announcing that “the beaches will be open.”

Despite the blurry lines on who and who can’t go past their ankles in the water, the city Department of Parks and Recreation allows surfers access to the water year-round without the need for lifeguards. 

The mayor, reiterating Parks Department service changes, added that in addition to swimming, group activities and sports, such as volleyball, will not be allowed. That complies with rule Gov. Cuomo laid out in order for beaches to open. They are also limited to 50 percent capacity. Additionally, social distancing and mask coverings are required while on the shores, and drinking fountains at the parks will be closed.

“Now, anyone who’s unhappy about that, anyone who thinks it’s unfair — the buck stops with me,” he said. “This is a decision I’m making as the elected leader of this city to protect all of us.”

City beachgoers looking to swim are limited to state and federal parks, such as Jones Beach and Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, which will operate at half capacity, following Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s May 19 announcement that the county’s beaches will only admit its own residents.

(1) comment

stan chaz

While both the Mayor and Governor have shown capable leadership in this crisis (unlike golfing Doctor Donald, our Quack M.D. & Fake President), I find the loophole that allows surfers into the water more than a bit puzzling.

Since swimming is not allowed (with no lifeguards on duty) if a surfer falls off his or her board in the surf, is he or she prohibited from swimming, and must therefore drown?

Surfers should just stay out of the water like the rest of us, for now. There will always be another big wave dear surfers, and hopefully it won’t be the second wave of the virus in the fall...

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