New York – New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members representing neighborhoods with city beaches released guidelines and recommendations for the city to open beaches safely this summer. The guiding principle is to allow New Yorkers access to city beaches while providing for proper social distancing, both at the destination and on the way to and from 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. 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. New Yorkers have done an amazing job coming together to flatten the curve and stop the spread so far. They deserve clear guidelines on how to safely enjoy city beaches as the summer heat approaches.” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
“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 J. Richards, Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.
“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. This can be accomplished with the proper rules and safeguards in place and with social distancing guidelines. Our neighboring states and counties are planning to make this happen for their residents – we can, and we should do the same for ours,” said Minority Leader Steven Matteo.
“We can’t have a situation where the beaches are open to surfers for some remake of Point Break, but non-surfboard equipped New Yorkers must sweat it out,” said Council Member Joe Borelli.
“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,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch.
“New Yorkers need access to their beaches, especially as we all have come together to combat this pandemic. We need to get to the beach in a safe manner, and these guidelines my colleagues and I are proposing will help us do so while keeping in mind the safety of everyone,” said Council Member Mark Gjonaj.
“As a representative of a community that is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, it is critical to me that precautions are taken to ensure that beach-goers are informed of all public health guidance, and that there is a clear plan for how to maintain social distancing, so that beaches remain safe open spaces for residents to enjoy. This plan centers on the advice of public health authorities, and the experiences of the diverse community of people who depend on our city’s beaches for language accessibility. I am grateful to Speaker Corey Johnson for his thoughtful and inclusive leadership, in putting forward a plan that accounts for the needs of beachfront communities, which have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic,” said Council Member Mark Treyger.
“Our beaches play a vital role in supporting the local economy and offer a safe outdoor venue for New Yorkers to get some fresh air and maintain their mental health during this crisis. With the right amount of social distancing and other common-sense measures in place, we can open the beaches safely this summer. I want to thank Speaker Corey Johnson and my colleagues in government for working together to come up with a real plan that works,” said Council Member Eric A. Ulrich.
“Disallowing swimming at beaches puts New Yorkers at risk. If the City is going to open our beaches, and parks, we need to do so in a comprehensive manner with the necessary resources they need to operate safely. We also need to ensure that those without equitable access to parks and beaches have alternative options, so that New Yorkers without access to cooling do not fall victim to heat-related illnesses. Thank you to Speaker Johnson for his sensible recommendations that will allow New Yorkers to enjoy this summer safely and help guide our city towards recovery,” said Chair of the Council’s Parks Committee Chair Peter Koo.
- Beaches should be open for swimming and permit stationary/sunbathing activities. Capacity can be reduced by establishing marked off, safely distant, locations on the beach. Ropes could be used to block off areas, including for walking, transit or spaces needed for additional distancing. Markers like flags could be planted in the sand to designate areas where a person or small group can sit (can’t be more than a certain number of feet from a flag, and flags would be spaced in advance by the Department of Parks and Recreation at safe distances). Flags should be inexpensive and flexible, and preferably made out of sustainable materials with no negative impact on the beach environment. Beaches should include spacing for walking lanes. Where possible, beaches could designate separate entrances and exits to facilitate social distancing.
- Restaurants on or adjacent to beaches should be permitted to open. The City should work with restaurant owners to determine the best course of action within Department of Health and Mental Health (DOHMH) guidelines.
- Bathrooms should be kept open, same as NYC parks. They should be cleaned frequently.
- Soap and sanitizer must be in all bathrooms. In addition, there should be foot pedal operated soap and water and/or sanitizer hand washing stations throughout the beach area.
- Mask use should be required on boardwalks or whenever mobile on the beach (except for transit to water). Free masks should be made available to the public on a daily basis.
- Lifeguards should be provided with PPE (masks, gloves, respirator guards/facemasks). The city should work with DOHMH to determine how frequently lifeguards should be tested. They should be permitted to isolate with pay as needed, again under DOHMH guidelines.
- Use social/health ambassadors, including youth and other community partnerships, to educate the public on social distancing policy and mask requirements, instead of relying on NYPD for enforcement. Signage should educate beachgoers on social distancing, new beach use policies, and proper traffic flow. The signs should be multi-lingual. DOHMH should also prepare clear guidelines and multi-lingual educational material on social distancing and make it available to beach visitors. Parks has experience in crowd control that should be utilized.
- Beaches will need an increase in receptacles for masks, gloves, and other PPE to minimize litter cleanup at end of day.
- Increasing transportation options will increase the ability for social distancing. Some ideas to increase transportation options include implementing new bus lanes to facilitate additional frequency on high-traffic bus routes, expanding the number of bike racks at beach entrances, and pop-up protected bike lanes or bike-only streets on routes approaching beaches.
- Lastly, we must also be looking at non-beach alternatives for neighborhoods who aren’t near the beach. We must bring resources, such as misting machines in parks or open streets, to those communities as well.