State and Suffolk County ocean beaches will be open Memorial Day weekend.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the decision May 15 just as half of the state’s regions began 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, as well as Suffolk beaches at Smith Point County Park in Shirley and Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach will reopen Friday, May 22.
Beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware will also be open, a joint agreement worked out between state officials.
Any beach in New York that opens will only be at 50 percent capacity to avoid overcrowding, which will be controlled at the parking lots — signs will indicate when a facility has reached capacity. 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. Attendants will be added to the bathrooms, which will be cleaned regularly; hand sanitizer will be made available; and additional lifeguards put in place so they can stagger locations on the beach. Extra staff will also aid beachgoers finding spots to ensure groups are abiding by the six-foot separation.
“When in a spot, there is no need for face covering,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “When going to other areas away from your spot is when you’ll be putting face coverings on. Added lifeguards will ensure people remain socially distant in the water, and extra staff members will be continually cleaning bathrooms in protective gear. The staff will also have their temperatures checked on a regular basis.”
Bay beaches will not open on Memorial Day weekend, he said. The ocean beach at Shinnecock and bay beaches like Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays will open later in the season.
Southampton Town’s Plan
In an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Town of Southampton will implement a phased reopening and staffing of beaches this summer. Beginning May 23, Ponquogue, Sagg Main, and Long Beach will operate on weekends. They will be staffed with lifeguards and beach attendants. Restrooms will be open and concessions will operate as takeout only. No picnic tables or benches will be available.
Permits are required at all beaches and access roads beginning May 23. Residential and non-residential permits will be sold at the three beach locations on weekends beginning Saturday. Beach permits applications are available on the town’s website, and existing 2019 beach permits are valid through June 30. No daily permits will be sold until further notice.
Beach operations will be assessed weekly with the hope to staff more beaches on weekends in late June, the town said, and to operate seven days a week in July. This phased-in plan is subject to change as conditions warrant.
Southampton Village residents will be issued parking passes for local beaches in time for Memorial Day weekend, but day-trippers will not be allowed, at least in the short term.
The board adopted Phase I of a multi-layered gradual reopening plan last week. Mayor Jesse Warren said each household will be issued up to three permits.
“The goal here was to limit transactions and protect our workers in the booth,” Village Trustee Andrew Pilaro said. He is also mindful though that day-trippers provide “a bump to businesses and restaurants.”
Residents must provide a copy of a valid car registration and a copy of their tax bill.
Summer visitor permits will only be available to individuals renting for 30 days or longer, at a cost of $450. Local non-village residents within Southampton’s fire or school district can buy a permit for $250. Senior citizens and veterans pay a discounted rate of $175.
“We love these amazing beaches we have,” Bellone said. “This virus has taken so 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.”
If the public does not comply, the governor said beaches will be closed immediately.
“How this goes is up to all of us,” Cuomo said.
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.
Desirée Keegan, Rick Murphy, and Taylor K. Vecsey contributed reporting.