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Laura Curran signs bill limiting Nickerson Beach access to county residents

Nassau County legislators approved a measure to allow

Nassau County legislators approved a measure to allow access to Nickerson Beach, seen on Wednesday, only to county residents. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed legislation Wednesday to limit access to county-owned Nickerson Beach to county residents, effectively making all public beaches on the South Shore, except Jones Beach, open only to Nassau residents.

The law goes into effect Friday, along with new safety protocols for beachgoers. The temporary restrictions will last as long as New York City beaches are closed.

Curran, a Democrat, and Republican county legislators called the unprecedented move restricting public access to the water a response to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to keep city beaches closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Town of Hempstead and the City of Long Beach passed similar measures this week.

Nassau officials called the new county legislation a necessary public health measure aimed at preventing overcrowding at beaches beginning this Memorial Day weekend, while physical distancing orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus are in effect.

“This is not about our neighbors to the west," Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said of New York City residents.

"Once the mayor opens the beaches of New York City, this legislation sunsets," Nicolello said. "We anticipate we will go back to the situation that has existed forever."

The Republican-sponsored bill passed 18-1, with Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream) voting no. Solages, whose district borders Queens, said he objected to the "selfish, offensive and inflammatory rhetoric utilized in recent days by some Republican legislators to promote this legislation."

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Solages said he believed some in the Republican legislative caucus had made divisive comments about city residents in arguing for passage of the bill. 

"Fostering a spirit of unity and collaboration empowers us to conquer the COVID-19 pandemic," said Solages, who did not identify the GOP lawmakers by name. "Divisive posturing will only add fuel to the forces that undermine our regional recovery efforts.”

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Under the new law, drivers entering Nickerson Beach lots will be asked to identify themselves as Nassau residents, either with a driver's license or a leisure pass. Only the driver’s ID will be checked, Curran said Wednesday.

Curran said she respected de Blasio's decision to keep city beaches closed, but “our taxpayers, our residents are the ones who pay the taxes to operate the beach to make sure that it runs well, and I believe they should be given priority to use it, exclusively.”

She said the county health department regulates 62 beaches, including public beaches and beach clubs.

Curran said it was unclear when private beach clubs will open, and that she was awaiting guidance on beach cabanas.

De Blasio did not respond directly when asked at his daily virtual news conference Wednesday for his reaction to Long Island governments limiting beaches to local residents. 

“If you’re in surrounding counties, where people are mainly going by car, where beaches don’t get crowded the way ours do, if that’s what works for them, I respect that," de Blasio said. "Everyone has to make their own choice, and everyone has to set their own ground rules.”

Suffolk County, the towns of Hempstead and Brookhaven and the City of Long Beach also have moved to restrict their beaches to local residents.

State-run Jones Beach in Nassau and Robert Moses State Park in Suffolk will be open without residency restrictions. Parking lots will operate at 50% capacity.

With Matthew Chayes 

NEW NASSAU BEACH RULES

  • Beach parking lots will be at 50% capacity. Vehicles can park in every other space.
  • County parks workers will monitor social distancing, and police will be on hand.
  • Except for members of the same family or householdt, beachgoers should keep at least six feet apart when walking around, and 10 feet apart when they set up towels and chairs on the beach.
  • Face coverings are required when walking around and using facilities including restrooms.
  • Restrooms will be cleaned frequently; only six people may be in a facility at a given time.
  • Volleyball and other contact sports are prohibited.
  • Lifeguards will have CPR resuscitator masks and manual pump resuscitators to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Each chair will be occupied by one lifeguard, and chairs will be decontaminated at each shift.

Source: Nassau County executive

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