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South Shore communities await call from Gov. Cuomo to reopen beaches

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, second from right,

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, second from right, on Tuesday in Freeport, helps prepare buoys for town marinas. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Local communities are preparing to reopen beaches and docks once Long Island emerges from the state’s COVID-19 shutdown.

Officials are awaiting guidelines from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on how Long Island’s beaches may reopen along the South Shore. The state is under a “PAUSE” stay-at-home order through at least May 15.

Nassau County, Long Beach, the Town of Hempstead and Jones Beach are all preparing for beaches to reopen.

“The simple fact is, we don’t know yet,” Long Beach City Council president John Bendo said. “It’s really the state that will ultimately decide the rules on what’s going on. We are preparing as if the beach will reopen. If that happens, we will be ready, but we don’t know yet.”

The city closed its 2.2-mile boardwalk last month amid fears of spreading the coronavirus. The beach has remained open at other entrances off the boardwalk, but Long Beach does not have a plan for when the boardwalk will reopen. Typically, lifeguards and beach admissions start on Memorial Day weekend.

Freeport leads the South Shore with 1,091 positive coronavirus cases, followed by Long Beach with 551.

“People’s lives are at stake and we all have to be thinking of the greater good right now,” Bendo said. “The simple fact is the sooner we beat this down, the sooner we can get back to normal. You can hunker down now, or you can hunker down in July or August. Let’s hunker down now so we can get back our summer.”

Cuomo has cautioned communities about a regional approach to opening beaches, but state parks and Jones Beach remain open. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran urged residents to walk on Nickerson Beach and practice social distancing.

Hempstead officials have opened beaches, but limited access at Point Lookout and Lido Beach West where a large number of surfers have gathered.

Cuomo modified his executive order Saturday, authorizing marinas to reopen with social distancing protocols in place for boaters and non-chartered vessels.

The Town of Hempstead reopened marinas this week and began placing buoys in the water to guide boaters through canals and approved boating areas in Reynolds Channel.

“We live on an island and people are passionate about their boating,” Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. “I think the fact we’re putting out buoys shows there will be a hope we can utilize waterways under different procedures. It’s a sign of hope there is going to be some opening and people can get out and enjoy themselves.”

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said it may be a different summer on the Nautical Mile for boaters and restaurants. Kennedy said the village projects to lose $3.2 million between March and June, including at the recreation center and courts.

The village has canceled its Memorial Day parade and Nautical Mile festival, but businesses are hoping to reopen for the summer.

“Those businesses need business over the summer to sustain a long-term opening in the village,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully they can bring people back to support them, and we’ll do whatever is necessary to get people down here.”

Marinas: Open for private boats, practicing 6-feet social distancing. Hempstead docks require boats 50 feet apart.

Long Beach: Boardwalk closed, beach remains open

Lido Beach: Lido West closed, Nickerson and Hempstead Town beaches remain open

Jones Beach: Boardwalk and beach remain open

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