County to open two ocean beaches; towns may open as long as they enforce minimum rules

New York State Beaches Will Open Memorial Day Weekend




New York beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, with restrictions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the decision on Friday, just as half of the state’s regions begin to reopen following a two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State beaches on the East End, including Camp Hero and Hither Hills in Montauk, Wildwood State Park in Wading River, and Orient Beach State Park, will reopen on Friday, May 22.

When state beaches reopen it will only be at 50 percent capacity to avoid overcrowding — which will be controlled at the parking lots, he said. Masks will be required when social distancing is not possible. Concession stands will be closed and no group activities, like beach volleyball, will be allowed. State pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas will remain closed.

Beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware will also be open, a joint agreement worked out between state officials.

What will happen at local beaches remains to be seen. Municipalities have until Wednesday, May 20, to decide whether to open beaches under their control for the holiday weekend. If they choose to open, they must adopt the state requirements at a minimum. Local governments may choose to add more restrictions.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced during his daily briefing on Friday that the county’s ocean beaches at Smith Point County Park in Shirley and Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach will be open to bathers come May 22, with the restrictions put in place by the state. Attendants will be added to the bathrooms, hand sanitizer will be made available, and additional lifeguards will be put in place so they can stagger locations on the beach.

The ocean beach at Shinnecock and the bay beaches, like Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays, will open later in the season.

“We love these amazing beaches we have,” he said. “This virus has taken much from us — we couldn’t allow it to take our ability to go to the beach this summer. For kids who don’t have playgrounds and don’t have pools right now and don’t have movies . . . we have to have something for them to do and the beaches are the places we can do that.”

Bellone said he thought it would be unrealistic to keep children and families off the beaches as the temperatures rise, and he feels the county can open its beaches even in the midst of the public health crisis.

“We have to get this right,” Bellone said. “What we don’t want to have happen, as we’re contact tracing, we’re seeing a number of cases coming out of the beaches, county beach, state beach, a village or town beach,” he said. “If the numbers start to spike here, you have to put restrictions back in place and no one wants to see that.”

The governor said enforcement will be key.

“A lot of it is going to fall on the local government and we’re going to need them to step up here,” Cuomo said, adding that if the public will not comply beaches will be closed immediately. “How this goes is up to all of us.”

The governor also announced Friday that he is extending New York PAUSE until May 28 for the regions that have not yet met the metrics to begin a phased reopening. However, once a region meets the benchmarks, it may begin Phase I of its reopening regardless of the order.

As of Friday, the Long Island region has met five of seven criteria to begin reopening.

Regional control groups must convene each morning to look at the metrics, even once the regions have been given the greenlight for the first set of businesses to go back to work. They need to monitor infection rates, testing, and hospitalizations. “We expect to see an increase, but that increase has to be monitored and controlled,” the governor said.

taylor@indyeastend.com