ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has ordered that marinas and many golf courses can reopen with safety restrictions after being closed to contain the COVID-19 virus.
Cuomo struck the boating agreement Saturday with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut. The decision allows marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers to open for personal rather than commercial use as long as participants adhere to social distancing rules by keeping at least 6 feet apart at all times.
Sanitizing of facilities is also required. Still prohibited are chartered watercraft services or rentals. Restaurants at marinas will continue to be limited to takeout or delivery service.
Marinas and boat launches had appealed the state's decision to close the facilities. Last week, Cuomo said some boaters on Long Island were taking their boats to marinas still open in nearby states, a practice the governor said was counterproductive to efforts aimed at reigning in the coronavirus.
"Throughout this pandemic, we've worked closely with our friends in neighboring states to implement a uniform regional approach to reducing the spread of the virus," Cuomo said Saturday. "Aligning our policies in this area is another example of that strong partnership, and will help ensure there is no confusion or 'state shopping' when it comes to marinas and boatyards."
Following a second appeal by operators since the virus struck, some golf courses will reopen, according to a state decision issued Friday.
Private courses can now allow golfers to walk the fairways but they must carry their own bags. State and other public courses are still closed, but municipally owned courses can open under restrictions with local officials making the final determination. No employees — caddies, bartenders and others — can work on any course unless they are involved in essential services such as grounds maintenance, state officials said Saturday.
In addition, golfers at any reopened courses must adhere to tight safety protocols that include "no gatherings of any kind and appropriate social distancing of 6 feet between individuals."
Golf courses had appealed Cuomo's initial shutdown order March 20 and won a waiver. Many courses that reopened operated for two weeks before a subsequent order closed them. But that ban ended with the state’s Friday amendments.
The state parks golf courses on Long Island — Bethpage, Sunken Meadow and Montauk Downs — were closed after the April 9 decree, and the state parks website had been saying they would be closed until May 15. But the wording on the website on Sunday said: "Golf Courses operated by State Parks are currently closed. State Parks will continue to evaluate the situation and will announce any change in status."
The fast-moving changes in what is considered an essential business or a relatively safe recreation during the coronavirus pandemic follows a decline in infections and hospitalizations. Cuomo said last week the virus had apparently plateaued, but aggressive social distancing measures would continue as businesses are allowed to reopen to avoid a resurgence of infections
The governor said he’s been pressured by business operators since he issued his PAUSE order on March 20 to close schools and all but essential businesses.
Studies indicate annual boating and related activities account for about $4.1 billion on Long Island, and park facilities that include golf courses generate about $1 billion annually. The industries combine to produce 50,000 to 100,000 jobs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Trust for Public Land and the Rauch Foundation.
Among the recreational activities still banned are playgrounds and public basketball courts, although parks remain open.
With Jeff Williams