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.
- 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.