Last weekend, the actors and props weren’t the scariest things at Bayville Scream Park, a popular Halloween destination in Bayville. It was the lack of social distancing and long wait times that left many park-goers frightened and frustrated.
“We got called there on Saturday night on a complaint from the Police Department for severe crowding at the Scream Park,” said Michael F. Uttaro, assistant chief in the Nassau County fire marshal’s office. “When our fire marshal got up there, he observed between 200 and 300 people waiting on different lines of the attractions and milling about the property.”
“There were a lot of unhappy people,” Uttaro said, “because they were waiting on lines for four to five hour.”
One of those unhappy customers was Trish Baboolal, of Queens, who went to the park on Saturday night with her family. She said that they waited on line for four hours in the cold, until 11:30 p.m.
“Soon after arriving, we realized that there was no social distancing,” Baboolal said, adding that she was under the impression that there would be greatly reduced capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. “With no end in sight [after waiting on line for hours], my husband spoke to someone about a refund and they said they weren’t doing refunds. The park closes after 1 a.m., so it [would have been] impossible for us to see more than one scare attraction, considering we were a whole other hour away from the attraction.”
At that point, Baboolal said, she decided to leave. Because the park didn’t seem prepared for so many people, and because there was no social distancing she worried that the area was a breeding ground for Covid-19.
Another customer, Corina Lemanski, who came from Bristol, Conn., had a similar experience on Saturday. “The line was insane,” she said. “People were on top of each other. There was no such thing as social distancing at all. Everyone was not wearing a mask. There was not a reason for ‘timed’ tickets because none were checked for the time frame when we purchased tickets.”
Lemanski said she saw fights breaking out in the lines.
Bayville Scream Park had not returned a call requesting a comment by press time.
Uttaro said that because the fire marshal didn’t arrive until after midnight, they returned again the following morning. “We did a full inspection of the entire property,” he said. “We told [the owner] that he could only have 50 people waiting on line.”
The owner of Bayville Adventure Park, D.R. Finley, was then advised to make revisions, such as creating a reservation system, to prevent overcrowding and other violations of public health guidelines.
“We also did an inspection of his property and he had about a dozen fire code violations,” Uttaro said, “nothing terribly severe, but we’re going back on Thursday for a re-inspection to see if he cleared those violations.”
Chris Pflaumer, a Bayville resident, said that as a landscape businessman he can understand how the overcrowding could have happened. Because of Covid, the owner of Scream Park may not have known how many people would come. “In this environment, with such an unknown factor — Covid-19 — when you open your doors, you don’t know if anyone will show up or if the whole town will,” Pflaumer said. “He made a mistake once, but he shouldn’t do it again. I think he isn’t doing the village any justice running it the way he is running it.”
As of Tuesday, the Scream Park website published a warning that the park might be crowded and its staff would be strongly enforcing social distancing. “Despite our best efforts there may be occasions when some guests do not adhere to our requirements,” the warning read. “Guests that do not adhere to our social distancing will be asked to leave the park.”
Finally, it read that guests should not visit the park if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus, and that by visiting the property, guests voluntarily assume all risk of exposure to it.
“Our number one priority as village administrators is the health and safety of our residents and anyone who is a patron of a Bayville business,” Deputy Mayor David Wright said. “To that extent, we take it very seriously, and we will be independently making sure everyone follows the appropriate rules and village ordinances as well.”
Megan Weilert, who has lived in Bayville for 16 years, said, “I don’t live on that side of town, so I haven’t seen anything myself. The people that live or drive through that area probably having a problem. I think the issues there are Covid-19 and the safety of the cars that have to drive that way.”
Doug Watson, a former mayor of Bayville, said that he didn’t recall any problems at Scream Park in the past. “Sometimes there is overcrowding there around Halloween time,” he said, “but the guy pays his taxes and he has two or three months a year to crack his nut. I don’t know what people want.”
Watson said that Finley was never a bad neighbor. “When I was mayor, if I called him, he came right up to the office or we would talk on the phone,” Watson said. “He was a very compliant guy. Two weeks from now that won’t be happening.”
Laura Lane contributed to this story.