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Are NYC beaches open? Here's what you can and can't do on New York beaches

This is what a closed beach really means.

Collier Sutter
Written by
Collier Sutter

As the temperature continues to rise in the city, New Yorkers are eager to get out of their shoebox-sized apartments and take a refreshing dip in the ocean. Normally, that would mean heading to surrounding beaches like Coney Island, the Rockaways and Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

But those beloved beaches will not be opened for swimming, or any “normal” summer activities this year, says Mayor Bill de Blasio. Needless to say, there are a lot of questions about what that means for New Yorkers looking to catch some rays, so we’ve worked on getting you some answers.

What does it mean that NYC beaches are closed?

There is no swimming at the beaches, no sports, no gatherings and everyone must observe social distancing. If you walk on the beach, the Mayor advises New Yorkers to only do it for a limited period of time.

De Blasio has also stated that there will be police patrols to ensure people are following the rules and not going in the water. "You'll also see in the [NYC] 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. 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."

If people don't follow the rules, the city could begin enforcing the blockades at entrances to keep people off the beach altogether. "The fencing will be there, but it won't be implemented at first. We're hoping everyone just listens to the rules, follows the rules," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "No swimming, no sports, no gathering, no parties. Just common sense. Observe social distancing. If you walk on the beach, do it for a limited period of time, get back home like everyone else."

Which NYC beaches are closed?

NYC public beaches closed for the season as of right now include: Orchard Beach in the Bronx; Coney Island Beach and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn; Rockaway Beach in Queens; Cedar Grove, Midland Beach, South Beach, and Wolfe’s Pond Beach in Staten Island.

Why aren't NYC beaches open?

The Mayor warns that beach crowds could easily get out of hand. New Yorkers could spread the virus if left unable to safely social distance while packed onto jammed beaches or gathering in clusters at concession stands and bathrooms. Another issue is that many New Yorkers do not have cars to transport themselves to their beach day. Beaches are mostly accessible by MTA buses and subways, which are primarily being used by essential workers right now. If city dwellers, looking to escape the steamy concrete jungle, jaunt out to beaches by mass transit, it could cause crowded subway cars and buses, risking rates to go back up.

Will NYC beaches open this summer?

Yes, it is entirely possible. Jane Meyer, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio, said city officials were “putting plans into place so that we can open beaches this summer if it’s safe.” She added, “We are reviewing the guidelines the governor laid out and will make all decisions based on the safety of New Yorkers,” Ms. Meyer said.

Adrian Benepe, who served as the city’s parks commissioner from 2002 to 2012, weighed in that keeping folks off city beaches may be difficult. “Closing beaches, and even posting patrols, would not prevent people from going on to the sand and into the water on hot days. “People will do whatever it takes to get cool,” Benepe told the New York Times. “And if you don’t open the beaches in some modified manner, they will go there anyway, requiring much more expensive resources to keep them out of the water.” Benepe suggests it could be entirely problematic to keep people away. “The city will still have to deploy hundreds of security and police officers to keep people off the beach, which will wind up forcing them to more dangerous places to swim.”

What New York beaches will be open Memorial Day Weekend?

State-run beaches including Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Gilgo, Sunken Meadow, Orient Beach and Shadmoor in Long Island will open at 50% capacity. Local officials must monitor capacity by controlling beach parking lots and beach entrances. Contact sports on all beaches like football and volleyball will also be prohibited, Governor Cuomo said. Pools, playgrounds and concessions will also remain closed to prevent people from gathering in crowds. Beaches run by the federal National Park Service like Jacob Riis Park and Ft. Tilden Beach in Queens, are already accessible and partially open for walking and running. But, Brenda Ling, the Public Affairs officer for NPS’s Gateway National Recreation Area told the New York Post it's not yet clear if they will have lifeguards, which is why they are only considered partially-opened right now. 

Can I go to beaches on Long Island?

As of right now, the chance of having a beach day at the nearby county-run beaches on Long Island is getting more and more slim, as elected officials fear NYC's eight million people will flock to Long Island beaches, leaving them inundated.

Suffolk County Long Island Executive Steve Bellone announced Monday that county beaches will be reserved for Suffolk residents only. "It's my priority that Suffolk residents will have access to their beaches with… safety rules in place," he said.

In Nassau County, county executive Laura Curran said Tuesday she would sign legislation to make popular Nickerson Beach for Nassau County residents only. “My number one priority will always be the health and safety of our residents,” tweeted County Executive Laura Curran. “In order to ensure Nassau residents can enjoy our only County-operated beach, I will sign legislation designating Nickerson Beach for Nassau residents’ use only.” Hempstead beaches (Point Look Out and Lido Beach) will also be only open to those from Nassau County. 

Do I have to wear a face mask at New York beaches?

Yes, under the requirements outlined by Governor Cuomo, face masks must be worn by all beachgoers and workers when social distancing is not possible. So get ready to see a lot of mask tans this summer.

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