Access Limited in City Parks, But Beaches Opening Soon

Under guidelines issued today by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Jones Beach and other state beaches will open on Friday, May 22.
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On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that there would be limited access to Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, areas of Hudson River Park, Pier 45 and Pier 46 on the Hudson, and Domino Park in Williamsburg in order to prevent overcrowding and potential spread of the coronavirus.

There will be a “monitoring approach” where NYPD officers and civilian ambassadors will set up perimeters and distribute face masks, de Blasio explained. Some of the city’s 2,260 “social distancing ambassadors” will be educating parkgoers on social distancing rules as well as handing out face masks.

“And if that approach works, we will apply it to any place we need to,” said de Blasio during his daily coronavirus press conference.

“There is more of a bond between police and community and that’s also about protecting people’s safety and we need to protect that,” the mayor said.

More NYPD and social distancing ambassadors will patrol city beaches, particularly Coney Island and Far Rockaway Beach, in the coming days to ensure that New Yorkers are keeping a safe distance from one another and covering their faces.

All of the city’s police precincts will now have a designated car that will focus on addressing large gatherings.

“The bigger the gathering the more that needs to be done by the NYPD to either make sure that that gathering never gets started to begin with or is quickly broken up,” said de Blasio.

The goal is to not have officers get to the point of issuing summonses. The disparity between the number of New Yorkers of color that have been issued summonses for breaking social distancing rules and white New Yorkers has come under scrutiny. Black and Latinx New Yorkers have been issued 80 percent of all social distancing summons, according to NYPD data released earlier this month.

Meanwhile, At the Beach
State beaches across New York will open for Memorial Day weekend, but with strict crowd limits to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

Beachgoers will be asked to wear masks and socially distance themselves from one other while soaking in the sun and wading in the surf. But don’t expect a crush of people for the unofficial start of summer; Cuomo said beach capacity levels will be cut by half.

New York’s beach reopening is part of a coordinated effort with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware. On Thursday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy had announced that the Jersey Shore would be open for Memorial Day weekend.

The coordination, Cuomo said, prevents an onslaught of beachgoers from closed states to beaches in open states, which would create overcrowding and increase the risk of another upsurge in COVID-19 infections.

“We want what’s best for New York, but we want what’s best for New Yorkers,” he remarked during his May 15 press conference. “It’s not in New York’s best interest to have people go out to other states if they’re overcrowded.”

State-controlled beaches will reopen on Friday, May 22, with a litany of new regulations designed to protect visitors and park staff.

First, the capacity level at each beach will be no more than 50 percent of normal levels. Cuomo said this will be enforced at parking areas and entrance/ exit points.

Group activities will be prohibited — including pickup volleyball and football games. Areas of social gathering, such as picnic areas and playgrounds, will remain off-limits to the public.

All visitors and employees must wear masks when they can’t socially distance. Concession stands will also remain closed to avoid long line formations, the governor added.

The fate of municipals beaches across the state — such as Coney Island, Rockaway Beach, and Orchard Beach in New York City — will be left to local governments. If they choose to open, Cuomo said, they must adopt the same state regulations at a minimum.

“If they think there are additional requirements needed, they are free to do that,” Cuomo said, noting that local governments will be empowered to open their beaches through a home rule message.

However, Cuomo said, localities must make their decision on reopening beaches  no later than Wednesday, May 20, so the state beaches can plan accordingly for an influx of additional visitors.

“If a locality doesn’t open beaches, we need to know because we’ll have more demand on the state beaches,” he added.

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