A sign warns of COVID-19 restrictions at a beach on Dune Road in Westhampton. Long Island Press photo.

Finding a socially distant spot on the sand at a beach on Long Island may be more difficult now that New York City will not be reopening its beaches in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Officials worry that city residents will flock to the Island to go to the beach as a result of the decision, potentially causing the shorefront to fill up more quickly than usual. The development comes as officials are finalizing plans to ensure that beaches in Nassau and Suffolk counties will have crowd control in place to cap attendance at 50 percent capacity to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“New York City should have lifeguards and all necessary personnel ready to go for Memorial Day,” New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said. “The city has had ample time to develop a safety plan and prepare. If the mayor doesn’t open NYC beaches, other New Yorkers in neighboring areas will deal with unnecessary risks and chaos.”

In addition to limited crowds, New York State has mandated that no group sports will be allowed at beaches, playgrounds will remain closed, and masks will be required in areas where social distancing is not possible. Local beaches on LI run by the state, counties, towns, and villages are all finalizing plans to ensure they can open safely in time for beach season.

“We didn’t make this decision lightly and we are watching the indicators — we will be smart and careful about this,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “We are taking it a week and even a day at a time. So maybe later in the summer we will open, but we are not ready yet.”

City beaches will remain open for walking or sitting, but no one or group will be able to congregate on the shores. The mayor warned, however, that if New Yorkers fail to comply with social distancing regulations, stricter action will be taken to block the beaches off to the public — including erecting 14 miles of fence along the waterfront, if necessary.

LI officials have issued similar warnings about oceanfront parks in the region. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Smith Point County Park in Shirley and Cupsogue Beach County Park in West Hampton Dunes will be restricted to Suffolk residents only. The parks will be checking beachgoers’ identification at entrances to enforce the mandate.

“Having to reduce capacity and the fact that you have municipalities in the region who have made the decision not to reopen their facilities for Memorial Day weekend all weighed on my decison to make Suffolk beaches … for the foreseeable future as resident-only beaches,” he said. “It has to be the case that Suffolk County residents will be able to get into their beaches, if there’s capacity.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said regardless of the city’s decision, the county’s beaches will be prepared for the start of beach season on Friday.

“No matter where they come from, we have to keep it at 50 percent,” she told reporters Monday. “We’re gonna be ready. We’re gonna do everything we can to make sure this is safe, that it’s orderly, and that it’s at 50 percent.”

-With amNewYork

Related Story: Long Island Beaches Will Have Social Distancing Rules This Summer

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.