What to Know
- New York City joined the rest of the tri-state area in reopening its beaches Friday; they are still closed to swimming
- Social distancing will be strictly enforced; capacity at all tri-state beaches is limited to 50 percent and capacity could be hit early
- New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are all expecting sizeable crowds given the pent-up demand
The beaches are open.
In what may be the only openings to happen as scheduled amid the pandemic, all tri-state shores welcome beachgoers starting Friday. It won't quite be Memorial Day weekend as usual. Capacity is limited to 50 percent. Strict social distancing is required. Masks are mandated when people can't stay 6 feet apart. Concession stands in New York are closed. You can still get an iconic Jersey Shore creamsicle swirl on the boardwalk, but you won't enjoy the arcades or any rides.
To tri-state residents desperately eager to get back to some semblance of life as they once knew it, that doesn't even matter. The weather won't be great -- the whole holiday weekend features relatively chilly temperatures for this time of year and Friday and Saturday may see some rain. That doesn't matter either.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are all expecting sizeable crowds given the pent-up demand. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned New Yorkers ahead of the openings that some beaches could hit 50 percent capacity by mid-morning Friday, a trend that will likely continue into the holiday weekend. People will be turned away once that happens.
A number of counties, including Westchester and Nassau, have restricted their shores to residents only, preserving the limited strips of sand for the people who live within their borders. And even on the sand, groups must stay separated, and masks worn whenever social distancing isn't possible.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
While New York City beaches remain closed to swimming, the NYPD said late Thursday they would open for sunbathing. Beachgoers can enter the water up to their ankles. Surfing is also OK. Strict social distancing is required, along with other precautions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged this holiday weekend poses a particular challenge to this stir-crazy city.
"We want to make sure people understand: You can walk on the beach, do it in a manner consistent with everything we've talked about," the mayor said. "We associate this weekend with freedom of summer. If you want your freedom, you can't let your guard down."
NYPD beach patrols will be up 30 percent and Parks Department patrols will also be out in force to make sure people understand the ground rules, the mayor said. They won't hesitate to enforce them if necessary. Fifty city vehicles will cruise the streets of the five boroughs making amplified announcements to remind people of the guidelines.
Some may take issue with certain aspects of the plan, de Blasio said. But he says it's what has to be done to safeguard public health.
"We could put up fences and close the beaches entirely. But that's not our goal," de Blasio said Friday. "We all have fought to get as far as we've gotten in these last weeks. We've got a lot of momentum now. We've got to hold onto it. If we get too loose we'll start going backwards and the last thing we want is more restrictions on our lives. We cannot let that happen. I won't let that happen."
While restaurants in Connecticut have reopened for al fresco dining, that's not the case in New York City, the mayor reminds the public. he new ad campaign from City Hall: Take out, don't hang out. The NYPD will pay special attention to areas that have seen overcrowding.
Buses, subways and trains could be a little more crowded this weekend; the MTA is still running only on its essential service schedule. De Blasio flat out said Thursday "we do not want people on mass transit." At least one bus driver has already reported an uptick in ridership, as parts of the state start to reopen and New Yorkers feel a bit less tentative about leaving their homes.
MTA officials issued collective public pleas Thursday asking people to stay in.
"We can’t risk overwhelming the system," Acting Senior Vice President of NYC Transit Department of Buses Craig Cipriano said. "Please do not take buses to the beach this weekend."