NEW YORK - During the summer, you can find New Yorkers trying to beat the heat by flocking to the water. But this year promises to be different.
To redirect funds where they’re most needed and to ensure social distancing, Mayor Bill de Blasio is proposing the closure of pools and he’s not ruling out the shuttering of beaches.
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“Imagine Coney Island in the middle of summer: hundreds of thousands of people," said de Blasio. "I’ve been on Coney Island, on that beach many ties, hundreds of thousands of people packed tightly together. I don’t see that happening anytime soon."
Those who know Coney Island best say public health comes first, but suggest a means of limiting access rather than true closure.
“We all know that Coney Island is the neighborhood in the summertime that stops other neighborhoods from exploding, where youthful energy and young lovers and families in the middle of a heat wave can cool off," said Dick Zigun, founder of Coney Island Circus Sideshow.
De Blasio projected that closing city pools for the season would save $12 million, so the city can focus on fighting coronavirus.
The mayor also proposed cutting youth-focused initiatives like COMPASS, School’s Out and the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Community leaders say closing beaches would definitely impact young New Yorkers.
“Closing a public park like Orchard Park, it’s difficult because so many young people take the time to go and visit every summer," Matthew Cruz, district manager of Bronx Community Board 10. "There’s so many sports tournaments. It’s just a time to walk around and enjoy music festivals and concerts there.”
Business groups are worried about the the mom and pop shops and restaurants reliant on seasonal traffic.
Some also note that it’ll be impossible to truly close off miles of beaches.
“The part that’s concerning for us is: How do you close a beach?" asked Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island. "It’s different to close a pool; there’s an actual gate.”
Rockaway businesses added that they learned to adapt and lean on each other after Hurricane Sandy.
“Just from that experience post-Sandy, we went right into "go time" when the city started to shut down," said Yarden Flatow, co-chair of the Rockaway Business Alliance. "There’s definitely a huge sense of solidarity among businesses out here.”
Even as habitual beachgoers mourned the idea that New York won’t have a typically vibrant summer, they looked forward to a time after the city overcomes the Coronavirus crisis.
Kwame LaBassiere is a surfing instructor in the Rockaways.
“It will be a little sad, but we’d rather everyone be safe," said LaBassiere, head instructor at New York Surf School. "And we can always make up for it later on in the year, if need b because we surf all year round.”