Two state legislators from Long Island will introduce legislation this week to help provide disabled and elderly residents with greater access to New York State beaches.
The bill, sponsored by Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), would require beaches across the state to be handicapped-accessible all the way to the high tide water lines, unless there is a physical barrier.
Currently, many area beaches are accessible for the disabled and elderly only to the sand, Miller said.
“This legislation is for the people who have no other way to get down to the water,” said Miller, whose son, Oliver, has a severe form of epilepsy and is largely confined to a wheelchair. “It is their right to get to the ocean.”
Flanagan said too many disabled Long Islanders have had difficulty using local beaches. “Providing the resources and means for all New Yorkers to enjoy our beaches and shoreline is important,” Flanagan said in a statement.
Miller said new “Mobi-mats” in Long Beach, which lay on the sand for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers, do not extend close enough to the shoreline. Atlantic Beach is considering a similar pilot program, Miller said.
Long Beach officials said they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But city officials said more could be done and that after the July Fourth weekend, they will extend the mats closer to the waterline at Tennessee Avenue.
“We are also seeking various grant funding and financial assistance to obtain additional Mobi-mats and pay for the labor to place and maintain them,” said Greg Kalnitsky, the city’s ADA compliance officer.
Long Beach provides the mats at three other spots on the beach, along with special all-terrain wheelchairs. Jones Beach also offers patrons specially designed wheelchairs that can maneuver through the sand and wheel up to the water.
Miller said the cost of the legislation is still being calculated.