NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City beaches remain closed for swimming this holiday weekend.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed concerns about commuters gathering on subways and buses to get to the beaches if they were reopened. He also pointed to beaches typically being packed when they’re open in the city. Both of those factors have influenced his decision to keep them closed, for now.
Area residents have been allowed to go for walks on the beach, but any kind of gathering, or sports, or swimming is not permitted.
De Blasio has said he hopes to be able to reopen beaches, but the city isn’t there yet.
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The New York City Council on Saturday released a series of recommendations and guidelines for the safe reopening of beaches.
“Access to city beaches isn’t just a summer fun issue. It is an equity issue and a public health issue. All New Yorkers, not just those wealthy enough to travel out of the city, deserve access to the beach this summer,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. ”It’s going to take hard work and thoughtful planning, but we need to find a way to allow people to cool off at city beaches and to get to and from waterfront destinations safely.”
Among the recommendations the City Council released:
- Reducing capacity by marking off safe, socially distant locations on the beach, using ropes to designate places for walking and flags to indicate safe, socially distant places for people and small groups
- Restaurants on or adjacent to beaches should be allowed to reopen
- Bathrooms should be open, as they are in New York City parks
- Masks should be required on boardwalks or whenever people are moving on the beach, except to get to and from the water. Free masks should be given away
- Lifeguards should be equipped with PPE
- Use “social distancing ambassadors” and signs to remind New Yorkers about social distancing and mask requirements
- Increase garbage cans for masks, gloves and PPE so they doesn’t pollute the beach
To address the mayor’s concerns about crowds on mass transit flocking to the beaches, the City Council also suggests implementing new bus lanes for high-traffic bus routes, increasing the amount of bike racks at beach entrances, and deploying “pop up” protected bike lanes — or bike-only streets — to help ease access to the beach.
The City Council is also calling for “non-beach alternatives” for neighborhoods that aren’t near the beach, with misting machines and open streets to help make up the difference.
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“New York City needs to open its beaches in a safe manner. It is critical for our physical and mental well-being. Our multi-faceted plan proposes the necessary steps for us to safely open beaches and practice social distancing to protect beachgoers,” said council member Donovan Richards.
The Kijowski twins, Nico and Luca, remember the days of being able to jump into the water at Rockaway Beach in Queens, but their mom had to tell them those experiences are over this Memorial Day weekend because of COVID-19.
“I told them toes only because there’s no swimming. So we want to be respectful of the rules,” Jenny Kijowski said.
And most were following the guidelines put in place. CBS2’s Cory James saw people biking along the boardwalk, sitting on the beach, and surfing in the water.
“I managed to get out for about an hour and catch a few waves and it’s pretty distance out there so you’re not real close to anybody,” one person said.
The changes would also apply to places like Coney Island in Brooklyn, where hundreds showed up Sunday.
“We thought we’d just walk around the beach and it’s a lot more crowded than we expected,” Clancy O’Connor said.
Lawmakers said it’s important for New Yorkers to get out and about, even if social distancing guidelines must remain in place.
“After months of difficult confinement and having shown they can do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19, New Yorkers absolutely need and deserve an opportunity to safely access city beaches this summer,” said council member Steven Matteo. “Our neighboring states and counties are planning to make this happen for their residents. We can, and we should, do the same for ours.”
“It is important that the city takes measures to make our beaches a safe and socially distant experience for New Yorkers. We’ve already seen it in recent weeks — as the weather gets warmer, residents WILL go outside. I was glad to work closely with Speaker Johnson and my colleagues to develop a plan that will ensure that when people are visiting our public beaches, they are still adhering to health guidelines,” added council member Chaim Deutsch.