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Sneak peek at Suffolk County's 2020 beach rules

Crowds gather at the beach at Robert Moses

Crowds gather at the beach at Robert Moses State Park on June 11, 2017. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Daily Point

Suffolk County beach rules preview

Memorial Day weekend is but a week away, and most Long Islanders have no idea whether beaches will be open or which restrictions must be followed to plan for the sand and surf. 

The Point has an exclusive preview of what might be in store.

The GOOD NEWS: Most beaches will be open for the summer. But masks will be required except when in the water or on your towel. Additional security teams will enforce social distancing with each household being at least six feet apart. More lifeguards will be hired, there can’t be two to a stand anymore, and fewer people will be allowed admittance to the beach or parking lots. Restrooms must have hand sanitizers, and residency rules, where they exist, will be strictly enforced. 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to announce state guidelines soon and those are likely to regulate not only attendance at Long Island state parks — Jones Beach, Robert Moses and Hither Hills — but also county, city, town and village sites. 

The Point has copies of the Suffolk County guidelines sent to Albany Thursday morning and recommendations that a Suffolk County working group of federal, town and village officials agreed on for their facilities.

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Talking Point

Suffolk County Community College tuition to remain the same

Suffolk County Community College will not be raising tuition in 2020-21, after a unanimous vote Thursday of its board of trustees.

In a tough financial climate, the college is holding the line at $2,735 for county residents for the fall semester partly by taking $7 million from its $17 million reserves. But trustees also hope that the flat tuition will draw attention from students and families nervous about the heady cost of four-year schools and the possibility that they’ll be paying primarily for online courses.  

“There definitely is a hope that by freezing tuition the enrollment will increase, that we will be more competitive and more affordable for students, especially when there’s a sense there’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” board of trustees president Christopher Murray told the Point. “People not knowing about the economy, their jobs. Some students looking for an opportunity to stay close to home, looking for a safe harbor until things settle down for a while.”

Murray said the college is budgeting a 7 percent decrease in enrollment based on recent trends, so any surge would be a bonus. And it’s a quantifiable bonus. If the college gets an enrollment increase of 300 students — Murray mentioned the 2,000 Suffolk County residents who attend Nassau CC as another potential pool — that would be the equivalent of a $100 tuition increase.

“Who wants to pay $50,000 to do courses by video? Anecdotally, we hear that from people,” Murray said. “We heard from our student representatives that there are a lot of people who are going to try the community college. Let’s see how things shake out.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

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Final Point

Pipe dreams 

A decision is coming — again — on whether to build a natural gas pipeline under New York harbor.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has to decide by this weekend whether to approve permits for the controversial pipeline, known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement project.

A state source told The Point that the department is expected to announce the decision on Friday — and it really has three options. One is just to say "yes.” The state could give a hard “no” — a final decision that could attempt to end the Williams effort for good. Or, and here it gets murky, the department could issue a softer denial — one with conditions to be met, or new deadlines in place. 

New York already has rejected the pipeline twice before. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has expressed displeasure with National Grid for putting all of its attention on the pipeline, rather than considering alternatives.

And it’s not just New York’s voice that matters here. New Jersey, too, has to approve the pipeline permits for the project to go forward. 

The decision comes as National Grid has whittled its options to address a potential gas shortage down to two: the new pipeline, or a combination of enhancing existing facilities in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and finding ways to increase efficiency and reduce demand.

Expanding the Brooklyn facility likely would require its own state permitting process, sources said.  

Separately from the Williams decision, state officials are also reviewing National Grid’s recently released report detailing those two options, and new projections that predict reduced demand, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. In examining the report, and the proposed options, the state will focus on questions of cost, reliability, emissions, and other factors, a source told The Point. 

While National Grid indicated in its report that the expansion/efficiency idea was “preferred” on balance, it also emphasized that the pipeline may be the less risky and more reliable choice.

Former National Grid chairman Bob Catell told The Point that he favors the pipeline, even after the Grid report. The alternative, he said, “doesn’t provide the security of supply in my opinion that’s needed for this region.”

Environmental activists, however, oppose the pipeline — although some have rejected the National Grid alternative scenario, too, saying that anything that expands the use of fossil fuels flies in the face of the state’s commitment to move toward renewable energy sources. 

Long Island Association chairman Kevin Law, meanwhile, said he has told the state the pipeline is needed, especially as the region tries to restart the economy.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall