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'Hellish' weekend prompts Southampton Town to close beaches

"It's unfortunate that we have to enact these

"It's unfortunate that we have to enact these restrictive measures," Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman about the closure of North Sea Beach, which over the Memorial Day weekend was crowded with visitors. Credit: Sharon Helmsteadt, courtesy

East End officials are closing beaches to out-of-town visitors after what Southampton Town’s supervisor called a “hellish” holiday weekend.

The town received numerous complaints last weekend about 500 people gathered on a narrow beach in the hamlet of North Sea. There were reports of littering, public urination, people not wearing masks or obeying social distancing rules, and people camping at the beach, according to a news release Wednesday announcing a new emergency order and restrictions.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to enact these restrictive measures, particularly as we enter Phase 1 reopening,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in a statement. “But after what we experienced last weekend with droves of visitors overcrowding our beaches, we are left with no other choice to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus in our community.” 

Similar incidents were reported elsewhere, including at Suffolk County’s Cedar Beach in Southold, said Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), and in Riverhead, officials there said.

Southampton Town officials closed North Sea Beach over the Memorial Day weekend after it was determined that social distancing guidelines could not be met. Schneiderman also cited an incident away from the beach.

“Somebody broke into somebody’s private residence and used the bathroom in a cottage,” said Schneiderman. “For some, it certainly was hellish.”

The order is in place until May 31 but could be extended, Schneiderman said. 

Southampton Town announced earlier this month that its beach parking lots would be off-limits to those without seasonal beach stickers in an effort to control crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest order extends those restrictions to the beaches themselves and roads within 1,000 feet of a public beach or body of water. Now anyone entering the beach, or on the beach, may be asked to provide proof that they are living or renting within the town.

Those not in compliance will be asked to leave or be ticketed. Cars parked overnight may be towed, according to the news release.

Some visitors were also ticketed for fishing without a proper license and taking undersized fish, Schneiderman said.

North Sea Community Association president Michael Molino said the area was so crowded over the weekend that sedans were parked on the sand.

“When I went down there, there was a Toyota Corolla sitting on the beach,” he said.

Molino said he spoke to several beachgoers, all of whom said they were from out of town, mostly from Queens and Brooklyn. He suspected the influx was a consequence of New York City beaches being closed and said he thinks the new restrictions will help control the crowds.

“I was very satisfied with how they [town officials] reacted and how they paid attention to it,” Molino said. “The bay constables and the town police were amazing.”

Southampton Town has also limited parking on East Landing Road, West Landing Road and Petrel Lane in Hampton Bays to only those with permits.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said Wednesday that the town did not see any crowding issues at local beaches during the holiday weekend. However, the town did see an uptick in the amount of people fishing at Wildwood State Park, which was open for fishing while town beaches remained closed for such activities.

Hegermiller said police have been trying to prevent people from using local beaches to access fishing beaches, which is prohibited. 

In Southold, the county has agreed to staff an attendant at Cedar Beach and enforce county residency requirements, Krupski said.

“Signage is going up today [Wednesday], the booth is going to go up today, they hired attendants and someone to clear the beach at dusk,” he said.

With Jean-Paul Salamanca

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