Southern Brooklynites call for safe opening of city beaches

Coney Island.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Beach, please.

As cooped-up Brooklynites gaze out their windows at the full-fledged summer season descending upon the outdoors, a cadre of southern Brooklynites are calling for a safe reopening of the city’s beaches — claiming that the threat of the novel coronavirus won’t be enough to stop a parade of beachgoers from plunging toward the sandy shores. 

“Unless you’ve got soldiers with machine guns standing outside NYC beaches, people WILL go to the beaches this summer,” tweeted Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan. “It’s about having a plan to mitigate disaster.”

State Senator Diane Savino, whose district includes Coney Island, fears keeping beaches closed and without lifeguards will lead to a spike in preventable drowning incidents. 

“Lifeguards are essential or people will drown,” she said on May 15 — two days after a good samaritan saved a young woman from nearly drowning in the frigid Coney Island waters.

One Coney Islander claimed that the local beach provides ample space to move about while maintaining six feet of separation, and argued that cordoning off the sand would simply lead to larger gatherings on the boardwalk and other public spaces.

“This is our backyard and nearly three miles long! There’s plenty of space, especially on the West end of Coney Island for social distancing,” said Brian Granoff. “Asser Levy Park and the Boardwalk have already been much busier than normal.” 

A ground of state senators with jurisdiction over the state’s coastal areas — including Savino, Roxanne Persaud, and Andrew Gounardes — penned a letter on May 14 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling on him to develop a plan to reopen beaches.

“Droves of ocean-goers streaming to our shores in search of relief and relaxation following months of isolation will require unprecedented levels of planning and cooperation in light of our newfound health challenges,” the letter read. 

The following day, Cuomo announced that state beaches could reopen on Memorial Day Weekend, but could open to 50 percent of their normal capacity, and only with the consent of the local government — which kicked the decision to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who poured cold water on the idea. 

“I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, we are not opening our beaches on Memorial Day,” de Blasio said in a press conference on May 17. “We are not opening our beaches in the near term. It is not safe. It is not the right thing to do in the epicenter of this crisis.”

Warm weather brought large crowds to Coney Island Beach over the weekend.Photo by Todd Maisel

Another local resident argued that hizzoner’s heavy-handed closure was unnecessarily restrictive, and proposed allowing Coney Island residents to use the beach free from non-locals. 

“The city should be solution-oriented. If the mayor doesn’t want people to travel to the beach, allow residents of 11224 or 11235 with an ID to enter the beach to swim,” said Jeff Paleno. “Many people live here because of the beach.” 

Bay Ridge Assemblywoman Nicole Mallotakis, who is running for congress against freshman Rep. Max Rose, blasted de Blasio for dragging his feet on the issue — citing “physical and mental health.”

“New York City is again being left behind as Mayor de Blasio refuses to open city beaches, golf courses, and tennis courts,” Malliotakis said. “My colleagues and I continue to reiterate that these public spaces should be open for recreation as it is crucial to physical and mental health.”