“There is such a demand in the New York City area to get to the beach, to get some respite,” Governor Cuomo said during his coronavirus briefing today. “It’s Memorial Day weekend, people want to get out of their homes.”
Needless to say, it won’t exactly be “sun’s out, buns out” when New Yorkers flock to the Rockaway peninsula this weekend. And given concerns about mass transit, that eternal Ramones lyric– “It’s not hard, not far to reach”– might be more ironic than ever.
If you do hitch a ride, know that New York City has closed Rockaway’s beaches to swimming, organized sports, and “gathering,” though the parks department has announced that “walking, running, exercising, and access to the sand and boardwalk are still permitted during regular park hours.” Visitors are asked to limit the length of their stay, and signs along the boardwalk tell them to wear masks and keep six feet apart.
During a visit today, the handball courts– finally rebuilt after being demolished by Hurricane Sandy– were closed off. Other areas, such as a sitting area around Beach 105 Street containing new ping-pong tables, were accessible.
According to the parks department, food vendors will be allowed to sell grub to-go, but don’t expect the usual party scene at the boardwalk concessions. Last week,popular arepa stand Caracas announced via Instagram that while it normally would’ve reopened by now, it was “still figuring things out on how to make it safe for ourselves and for our community as well as waiting to get final city guidelines.” Caracas cited concerns such as “bathrooms, enforcement, rent, etc.” This afternoon, none of the boardwalk vendors– who normally soft-open ahead of the Memorial Day rush– were up and running. Restrooms were open as usual, with signage telling users to socially distance.
On the other end of the peninsula, federally-operated Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis beaches will be closed to swimmers but “accessible for passive recreation, such as walking and running.” Sports and picnicking areas will be closed, and group sports and gatherings will be prohibited. “Limited” bathroom facilities will be available.
At the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, on the Riis boardwalk, year-round restaurant The Dropout will offer only takeout and delivery and will only be open Friday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm, with additional opening hours depending on the weather. Summer concessions won’t reopen just yet and no alcohol will be served until the seating areas are back in play. “We hope to be able to proceed with scaled back vendor reopenings for additional parts of the boardwalk as summer progresses and as [the National Park Service] allows,” the operators say. Needless to say, concerts and DJ parties are also on hold.
As of now, weekend ferries to and from Rockaway run just about every hour and a half, from 8:30am to 8:30pm to Rockaway and from 6:30am to 8pm from Rockaway. Face coverings are required. (Schedule here.)
Parking at Riis will be at reduced capacity, according to the Bazaar’s announcement. During today’s coronavirus update, Governor Cuomo acknowledged that New Yorkers will likely visit nearby state beaches such as Jones Beach, since lifeguards will be on duty there and swimming will be permitted. But he warned that their parking lots would be operating at 50-perfect capacity and could be full by as early as 10am.
“It’s a ride to these beaches and you don’t want to take that ride and find out the beach is already closed,” he told New York City residents in particular, adding that “with this pent-up demand, those parking lots will reach capacity very quickly.”