Coronavirus Updates (May 30): Expanding Reopening Capabilities; Bay Beach Scene Gets Ugly

Pictured Above: Greenport Village did a trial run of potential future parking restrictions the last weekend in May, designed to encourage social distancing.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the state may fast track the timeline for some businesses to reopen, local governments in Riverhead and Greenport are working on innovative solutions to allow more open-air space for businesses this summer.

Meanwhile, chaotic scenes at bay beaches in Southold and North Sea over Memorial Day Weekend have prompted local governments to increase restrictions there.

Greenport Village will shut down parking to make a temporary pedestrian walkway in the center of town on Front and Main streets for two days this weekend, beginning 8 a.m. Saturday, as a trial run to get an idea of any issues that may come up if it puts in place a semi-permanent plan proposed by the village’s BID last week.

Riverhead Town is also now accepting applications for restaurants who want to install temporary outdoor dining as they reopen.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday that he supports reopening more quickly, and believes that outdoor dining at restaurants could be included in Phase 2 of reopening the economy. Long Island entered Phase 1 on Wednesday, and Mr. Cuomo said Friday that the state will allow regions to get to Phase 2 sooner than the initially planned two weeks because “people have been smart and there hasn’t been a spike” in new Covid-19 cases.

New York also issued guidance Friday on how Phase 2 businesses can reopen. Phase 2 includes office buildings and retail at 50 percent capacity, along with barber shops, hair salons and malls with shops whose doors open to the outside.

Barbers and hair stylists would need to be tested for Covid-19 before they return to work, and would be required to be tested every two weeks once they return to work, and they must wear face coverings, said Mr. Cuomo, who added that any business owner has a right to refuse entry to potential customers who are not wearing masks, which is required by state law.

On the local level, governments here were working this past week to enable more outdoor space for retail establishments.

Mr. Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive, said Thursday that the Suffolk County Health Department “will grant automatic approval” for any new restaurant outdoor seating area approved by local governments to slow the spread of the disease.

A rendering of the Greenport BID’s proposal for sidewalk expansions.

The Greenport Village Board held a special teleconference meeting on Thursday to hear from the public and to vote on a plan to seek state Department of Transportation approval to build platforms to extend pedestrian sidewalks into the parking areas on Front Street and Main Street downtown. The village is also looking to temporarily lower the downtown speed limit during this time.

The proposal was pitched by the village’s Business Improvement District to allow more outdoor space for downtown businesses and shoppers.

Greenport Village is blocking off parking spaces in those areas this weekend, from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday, for a trial run to work out the kinks in the plan.

Greenport Trustees said Thursday that they are considering a plan later this summer to put a tent up in Mitchell Park with picnic tables for people who get takeout from local restaurants, but since the park cannot be used for commercial purposes, they need a plan for cleaning up the picnic area, and they need to figure out what to do about people who purchase alcoholic beverages along with their to-go meal, due to the State Liquor Authority ban on open containers in public places. (Towns and villages can suspend this rule for special events like the Maritime Festival, but not for everyday purposes)

Riverhead Town is now accepting applications from restaurants that want to allow dining on the street, after the Suffolk County Health Department and the State Liquor Authority agreed to fast-track permits allowing them to do so.

Applications for Riverhead’s Temporary Outdoor Dining Permits are expected to be online here.

“We anticipate restaurant reopening to be moved to Phase Two, and ask all restaurants to commence on following all the reopening protocols,” according to the town. “Councilwomen Jodi Giglio and Catherine Kent have been tasked to coordinate this effort.”

Applications may be submitted to the Riverhead Building Department’s drop box at 201 Howell Avenue, Riverhead or online. All applications will be fast tracked.

All applicants must complete and submit an online Business Affirmation to New York State, and a fire safety inspection will be required by the town. A COVID- 19 Reopening Safety Plan must be completed and retained on premises. The forms must be made available upon request by the Department of Health and/or local health or safety authorities in the event of an additional inspection. Both state documents are online here.

Crowds in North Sea, Southold Prompt Beach Changes

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman signed an emergency order temporarily banning all daily visitors and day-trippers to town beaches after a “hellish Memorial Day Weekend,” according to a press release issued Wednesday. The town had initially planned to enact the ban through this Sunday, May 31, but extended the ban Friday to next Friday, June 5.

“Memorial Day Weekend saw an influx of hundreds of visitors, many of whom parked their cars along roadways near beaches where parking was not restricted,” said Mr. Schneiderman in the press release. “The town had spent weeks preparing to open several popular bathing beaches for the Memorial Day Weekend. These beaches, including Ponquogue, Sagg Main Beach and Long Beach, were busy, but not overwhelmed. Weather conditions were not ideal for sunbathing which limited beach attendance, but, even in the rain, people flocked to other beaches to go fishing. The problem became acute at the end of North Sea Road in North Sea when nearly 500 people congregated on a narrow stretch of beach on Saturday evening. Police were forced to close the beach after determining that social distancing could not be achieved based on the volume of people.”

Under the emergency order, Mr. Schneiderman banned parking within 1,000 feet of road ends near beaches, and limited the use of the beaches, not just the parking lots, to residents and legal renters. The time frame is so short, he said, because emergency orders suspending local laws are limited to no more than five days, though they can be extended.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to enact these restrictive measures,” said Supervisor Schneiderman “particularly as we enter Phase 1 reopening, but after what we experienced last weekend with droves of visitors overcrowding our beaches, we are left with no other choice to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus in our community.”  The Town received numerous complaints about litter, public urination, people not wearing masks and not obeying social distancing rules, and people camping on the beach.”

Under the current emergency order, those parking at or near the beach will need to display a valid town parking sticker on their vehicles.  Anyone entering the beach, or on the beach, may be asked to provide proof that they are living or renting within the Town. Acceptable proof would include a valid New York State Driver’s License or Non-Driver ID showing a Southampton Town address; or a valid car registration showing a Southampton Town address; a utility bill showing a Southampton Town address, or any proof of a legal rental. The Supervisor said that the police would only ask for identification when over-crowded conditions exist.

Parking on East Landing Road, West Landing Road, and Petrel Lane in the hamlet of Hampton Bays, has also been restricted in the Emergency Order to parking by permit only.

Violators will be asked to leave and could face a penalty if they refuse. Cars not displaying the proper sticker will be ticketed. Cars parked overnight may be towed.

Meanwhile, town and county officials up in Southold were preparing for a press conference in the rain Saturday morning to discuss a similar situation at Cedar Beach in Southold, a joint county and town property.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell are organizing the press conference “to announce steps taken to prevent overcrowding, maintain safe social distancing, and protect environmental resources at Cedar Beach County Park and other Southold Town and Suffolk County Park Beaches.”

We’ll have more details later today.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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