Long Beach to provide free sunscreen at beaches

Dispensers will be added at 14 locations along boardwalk this summer


For those who forget to bring their sunscreen to the beach or simply run out of the protective lotion, don’t fret: the city will have beachgoers covered when it installs free sunscreen dispensers along the boardwalk this summer.

The City Council voted unanimously on June 6 to approve a three-year program to provide sea kelp-based sunscreen with SPF 30 at 14 boardwalk entrance ramps to the beach.

The dispensers will be located mostly in the center of town — with one at New York Avenue — at the bottom of the ramps on the beach.

“Following the example of other cities, like New York City, Boston and Miami Beach, we’re going to be helping to protect residents and visitors against the dangers of sun overexposure and skin cancer by providing free sunscreen at the ocean beach park at free dispensers located on the boardwalk,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The program is being paid for and sponsored by NYU Winthrop Hospital through a three-year, $90,000 grant. City officials said that Winthrop is providing $35,000 in the first year to fund the dispensers, and the city will be receiving $5,000 annually from the sponsor.

“This is one step that we feel is really important — that we protect ourselves against the ultraviolet rays of the sun,” Council President Len Torres said. “And the nice thing is it’s for free.”

The dispensers are being installed and maintained by Florida-based Destination Brands International, the company that is working with Winthrop and makers of Miami Beach Suncare. Destination Brands submitted the only response to a request for proposals, and the deal also allows for sponsorship logos to be advertised on each unit.

The city’s approval of the measure comes after the Town of Hempstead announced earlier this month that it was installing 25 sunscreen dispensers at all town beaches and pools through a $25,000 grant from South Nassau Communities Hospital.

Those dispensers are also being provided by Destination Brands and are operated manually, with each containing about a quart of Miami Beach Suncare SPF 30 Triple Action Sea Kelp sunscreen that is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. City officials said after the meeting that the dispensers in Long Beach are similar to those being used by the town.

Resident Allison Blanchette, a Green Party candidate running for City Council this year, said dispensers in Boston work well, but asked a number of questions at last week’s meeting about the program in Long Beach.

“I’ve seen these in other places and they don’t have logo advertisements on them,” Blanchette said. “That really is the most concerning to me — I don’t want a little mini billboard when I go onto the beach.”

She also called on the city to raise more awareness about the dangers of sun exposure.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the past three decades, listing melanoma as the most lethal form of skin cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most skin cancers are easily preventable, and the agency recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher.

City officials said that the initiative is part of a larger Winthrop program to promote sun protection, including a planned exhibition booth on the boardwalk.

Long Beach resident Beth Rose Macht, who survived basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, said she reached out to the city last year to request that dispensers be placed on the boardwalk.

“It was a real scare,” she said of her diagnosis. “If they can install Purell in every public building, why not step up and do this to help prevent skin cancer? It’s long overdue.”