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New York beaches to open May 22: governor

Bellmore-Merrick residents split on hitting the shores

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New York state will allow beaches to open this Friday, May 22, in time for the Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing last week.

The governor said, however, local towns and cities can decide to extend the order barring access to beaches beyond that date, if they deem it necessary. The reopening of beaches will take place in tandem with New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut, which has already reopened certain of its beaches.

The new order came one day after a bipartisan group of state senators called on the governor to create a plan for safe reopening of the beaches. Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, joined the nine senators in asking Cuomo to establish "an inter-jurisdictional task force to coordinate and execute" beach reopenings.

Nassau County beaches have been closed since Cuomo issued the first New York Pause order in late March, shutting down most businesses and public places in an effort to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Last Thursday night, the governor continued the New York Pause order through May 28, with the option and ability to extend enforcement of the order through June 13. The order applies to five of the state's 10 regions, including Long Island and New York City.

On May 1, 13 town supervisors from across Long Island gathered to begin developing plans to open their recreational facilities, including beaches.

“The theme of our discussion was that the Covid-19 pandemic does not follow town borders, and it’s necessary to collaborate on our best practices and strategies for summer programs and services," Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin said. "Working together as a team and maintaining communication will be key to providing the safest environment.”

Residents react

The Herald Life took to social media following the governor’s announcement to ask Bellmore-Merrick residents whether they’d be hitting the beaches this weekend or if they’d continue to stay home.

Our Facebook posts received dozens of comments, and the responses were split down the middle. Some said it could be difficult to abide by social distancing rules if the beaches become crowded; others said the fresh air and sunshine would do people good, so long as they take the proper precautions.

“I want this to end as much as anyone but you couldn’t pay me to go,” wrote Patricia Alfano-Polirer, of Bellmore. “No one will be wearing a mask, and no one will keep six feet apart.”

“There is plenty of sand at Jones Beach, [so] there should be plenty of room to social distance,” wrote Bobbie Arnel, of Merrick.

Jackie Spiegel, of Bellmore, wrote that she would brave the beaches when they are less likely to be crowded. “I would [take] the appropriate precautions and . . . would be prepared to leave if I felt it was unsafe for my family,” she said. “I'd probably try [to go on] a weekday morning or an early evening for a beach picnic, but not during a holiday weekend.”

Merokean Brandi Mandato wrote that she was looking forward to returning to the beaches this summer until she “saw video from [a] Long Island protest where people were aggressively ignoring social distancing precautions and calling Covid a hoax,” she said. “We bought a splash pad instead.”

Other residents also wrote that they would enjoy the warmer weather from their homes and backyards this year.