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For local beaches, it’s Nassau or nothing

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With the opening of state beaches for the Memorial Day weekend, including Jones Beach State Park, a raft of new regulations have been put in place to ensure social distancing and public safety.

Town of Hempstead beaches were to remain closed, but this was expected to have scant impact on Seaford and Wantagh, since neither have town beaches.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that all city beaches would remain closed throughout the Memorial Day weekend drew sharp responses from local elected officials, as city dwellers made plans to head east, potentially inundating Jones Beach and other local destinations.

The Nassau County Legislature’s Republican majority followed the Town of Hempstead in limiting access to town and county beaches to Nassau County residents.

On May 19, Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads, Republican of Bellmore, took to Facebook to voice his displeasure at de Blasio’s move and the crowding it could bring.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s selfish and irresponsible decision to close NYC Beaches threatens to overrun ours, as NYC residents will flee the Mayor’s latest attempt to limit their freedom, right at the unofficial start of the summer season,” Rhoads wrote.

“While County Executive Curran ‘respects’ Bill de Blasio’s decision, I respect the people of Nassau County and their ability to use and enjoy the beaches and facilities their taxes pay for. That’s why our legislative majority is introducing and will pass an emergency measure restricting anyone other than Nassau County residents from using our Nassau County beaches, until Mayor de Blasio lifts his ban.”

Throughout Nassau County towns have passed beach restrictions on nonresidents. Beaches such as Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach, Tobay Beach in Massapequa, Long Beach Park, Town Park at Lido Beach and Point Lookout will all be affected.

State parks, including Jones, Gilgo and Robert Moses beaches, were open to nonresidents, but they would be limited to 50 percent of normal capacity, with strict social distancing in force, including wearing masks when such distancing is not possible, and restricting group contact activities like beach volleyball.

The price of parking passes varied. Some municipalities, like North Hempstead, waived parking fees altogether for the weekend; others, like Massapequa, charged $20 and up for daily permits.

Lifeguards were scheduled to be on duty on the weekend but would not be on station on weekdays. Concern for their safety prompted extended negotiations with the union that represented them in the run-up to the weekend, according to news reports throughout the week. Although they were to be provided with extra protective gear, including scuba masks, it was not possible to guarantee their safety under all circumstances.

New signage is being placed around beach entrances as all beaches prepare for Memorial Day weekend.