City tweaks beach policy for Memorial Day weekend, opening sand but not surf

traffic safety
Coney Island Beach will be open for “walking and sitting” throughout Memorial Day Weekend, the mayor said.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Coney Island Beach will be open for Memorial Day weekend after all, officials said on Thursday — but not fully.

City beaches will be open for the three-day weekend to account for crowds and allow social distancing, a top cop revealed, but swimming will still not be permitted because there will be no lifeguards.

“We want to encourage people to be safe,” Brooklyn South Commander Chief Brian Conroy said during a presser at the People’s Playground. “Use common sense to be safe, watch out for each other, respect the virus, and together we’ll get through this and have a great weekend.”

Conroy said officers will be staffing the beach, augmented by School Safety Agents, Parks Enforcement Patrol officers and other Parks staff. While no swimming will be permitted, Conroy said beach visitors will be permitted to wade and go ankle deep in the water and surfers will be permitted.

“We’re working together with our partners in the Parks Department to keep people from going into the water,” Conroy said.  “We’re there to keep people safe and work with our partners, and all together we’re going to have a great weekend.”

On Friday, Councilman Mark Treyger and Borough President Eric Adams unveiled their own guidelines for the weekend. At a presser on the Riegelmann Boardwalk, the pair called on the city to implement their “Brooklyn beaches plan.”

The plan, created in partnership with the Alliance for Coney Island, includes having adequate staffing to maintain public shared spaces such as restrooms, signage about social distancing and face coverings in multiple language at beach entry points and a plethora of outdoor hand sanitizing and washing stations, among other key requests.

“We need clear public health guidelines to ensure safety for the duration of the summer season,” said Treyger, who represents the waterfront neighborhood. “Coney Island has the fifth highest death rate citywide as a result of COVID-19. Beach safety plans must be guided by recommendations from public health authorities, and must account for the fact that the beach is the only accessible open space for many Brooklyn residents. Beach plans must center the specific needs of the communities which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, particularly immigrant communities and communities of color.”

Cops patrol a crowded boardwalk the weekend before Memorial Day.Photo by Todd Maisel

Adams agreed, noting that the guidelines are crucial for locals and non-locals alike.

“For so many Brooklynites and New Yorkers who don’t have the means to afford second homes, Coney Island and other beaches around their borough are their weekend getaway over the summer,” the Beep said. “As the weather warms, we need a comprehensive plan and clear communication strategy to ensure people throughout the five boroughs can go to beaches in a safe and responsible manner, which are renowned across the world.”

Conroy added Thursday that officers will “not be enforcing social distancing.” However, he said, “we do enforce criminal violations and will still be doing that as we always have.”

The Police Department previously cancelled beach police details under the impression the beaches would be closed. But, after pressure from government leaders, the department restored 50 officers — a tally that was later upped to 100 and now, could be as high as 250 officers citywide on beach detail, in addition to hundreds of school safety officers who will also be on duty for the long weekend.

State beaches are a different story. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 15 announced that New York state would reopen its beaches at 50 percent capacity for Memorial Day weekend in coordination with New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware. Swimming will be allowed where lifeguards are on duty.

Hizzoner also doubled down on the weekend guidelines Friday.

City beaches will be CLOSED for swimming, sports games, barbecues or large gatherings,” he tweeted. “They’re only open for walking and sitting.”

Parking lots will also only operate at 50 percent capacity, the mayor said.

The MTA said Thursday it will not amend its schedule to accommodate New Yorkers looking to hit the beach. The agency will instead stick to its trimmed-down essential service schedule during the holiday weekend.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.