By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com
Nassau County and Suffolk Counties are expected to meet the state’s metrics to reopen by next week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said, even as the counties, and New York State move forward with reopening beaches, parks, golf courses, tennis and marinas this Memorial Day weekend, and will honor the fallen on Memorial Day with car parades and a televised wreath laying ceremony.
State beaches, including Jones Beach, are open, while Nassau County beaches will reopen to residents. Beaches are limiting capacity to 50 percent, through limiting parking, and social distancing and rules regarding wearing a mask in public and when 6-feet separation cannot be maintained, are in place.
The Bethpage Memorial Day Air Show that traditionally takes place at Jones Beach State Park will go on “virtually” on the airshow’s web page. Nassau County will conduct an auto parade and a small wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Memorial within Eisenhower Park; the Memorial Day events will be televised beginning at 9:30 am.
Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran encouraged residents to take advantage of the county’s expanded biking/walking/recreational trails. Speaking at Eisenhower Park, showcased the newly completed 1.4 mile expansion of the Motor Parkway Trail, a multi-use trail that currently spans from Hofstra University, to Museum Row, to Eisenhower Park. The expansion was completed in time for National Bike Month, which runs through the month of May. The trail serves as a recreational connection of 11 continuous miles through Nassau County for hikers and bicyclists, directly serving the Nassau Hub area. Curran said that ultimately, the county’s Department of Public Works in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land, will extend the trail to connect with Bethpage State Park, where there is a stunning 15-mile long bikeway, and will eventually reach to the Nassau-Suffolk line. The bike paths offer an alternative to using an automobile.
Indeed, the Motor Parkway was built by William Kissam Vanderbilt as the first roadway specifically designed for automobile use only. It hosted the first international automobile race in the United States, 112 years ago. Howard Kroplich, a car collector and historian who owns the 1909 Alco “Black Beast” which twice won the Vanderbilt Cup race.
Additional biking trails throughout the County can be found on an interactive map on the County’s website at: www.nassaucountyny.gov/biketrailmap.
“It shows government works for the people,” Curran said, adding that the 930acre Eisenhower Park, with its golf courses, mini-golf, tennis, pool, skating rink, actually is larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Nassau County, being contiguous with New York City, has been a hotspot for coronavirus, but the County executive pointed to positive metrics, including the most critical one, the number of deaths falling from peaking at 219 in a single day (April 6) to five; the number of new cases a day went from a peak of 2477 hospitalizations to 564 today; from 592 ICU patients at its peak, April 14, to 178 today.
Residents have “quarantine fatigue” she said, which is why opening outdoor recreation is so important. She said that nonprofit venues, like Old Westbury Gardens, the Planting Fields, the Bailey Arboretum, also can be opened safely, limiting capacity, in order to give people more things to do.
Nassau County’s economy has been decimated by the pandemic and the lockdown. Curran said.
She warned of a collapse of downtowns and the county’s small businesses.
“We see businesses suffering, lay offs,” she said. The county budget, which depends for 40 percent of its revenue on sales taxes, expects a 20 percent decline in those revenues – a loss of $438 million out of a $3.5 billion budget. The county is projecting a $384 million deficit.
She insisted the county has no intention of furloughing workers. “We have the best employees. We have a lean operation. I will stand by (our workers). Think of everything they have done –the DPW, police, health, consumer affairs – all going nonstop, serving residents. We need help from the federal government.”
The county, she said, has so far received $108 million from federal aid, but the county’s payroll is $80 million a month.
Consequently, the state’s new focus on getting funding to small businesses will be a boon to Nassau.
“Small business is a priority,” Governor Cuomo said at his May 22 coronavirus briefing. “The federal government’s small business assistance program has run out of money. Small businesses have taken a beating – they are 90% of New York businesses, and facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections are frightening” – more than 100,000 nationwide are estimated to have shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March. Minority- and women-owned businesses have been especially disadvantaged by the federal program.
Cuomo announced the state was initiating its own small business relief program which will make available $100 million in New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF), with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues, that have not received federal support (https://esd.ny.gov/economic-recovery-covid-19-loans-small-businesses).
The state also is permitting the staging for construction projects in anticipation of the county reopening.
The lag in reopening the county has also hurt real estate sales, Curran said. New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a boon in New Yorkers looking to escape the city for suburbs. “We don’t want to lose out. We have all price ranges here.”
Meanwhile, Curran announced that the Nickerson Beach cabanas will be open for the summer season on June 21.
“The Cabanas at Nickerson are a beloved tradition of our County’s beach culture and for many it wouldn’t be summer without them. I am glad we are able to return a tiny of bit of normalcy to our residents and allow them to enjoy this amenity along with our beautiful south shore beach. We will have new guidelines in place to ensure that people are able to enjoy the cabanas in a safe way,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Nickerson Beach has long offered cabanas for rent during the summer season on the eastern and western ends of the park. Each year, a lottery is held to determine eligibility for available spots. There are 498 cabanas and 147 cabinettes. The County released directives to ensure all renters can utilize the cabanas safely while abiding by social distancing guidelines. The County will be monitoring compliance of these rules.
- The County will be implementing a density reduction plan by reducing parking to 50 percent occupancy.
- Cabanas may only be used to store food, change clothes and store beach chairs, tables and umbrellas.
- Congregation in and around cabanas will not be permitted.
- The County will be reaching out to cabana renters to ascertain their interest in voluntarily forgoing their use this season. Those renters who chose to pass on utilization this season will have their renting rights honored with no penalty in the 2021 season. The County will be releasing a fee reduction plan for those who chose to rent this season.
- Use of indoor amenities, except for bathrooms, at beach clubs are not permitted at this time. The County is waiting on New York State guidance on opening pools.
Meanwhile, the Governor is looking to allow religious centers to conduct services, limiting participation and requiring social distancing, and is also looking to for a return of professional sports but without fans in arenas.
Cuomo has insisted that testing, tracing and isolation are key to reopening without triggering new spikes in contagion that could force the economy to shut down again. He encouraged anyone to get tested and announced a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7000 tests per week.
“New York is doing more testing than any other state, any other nation.” He said that so much testing is available that many of the places are doing thousands fewer tests a day than they can accommodate.
If you have any symptoms or feel you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, he urged, go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find out where to go for a test.
The state has mounted the most aggressive contact tracing program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and developed by Johns Hopkins.
Cuomo said New York would share the software and training program with any state that requests it, through the National Governors Association, at no cost.
Cuomo stressed the importance of wearing a mask as key to preventing a resurgence of coronvirus outbreaks that could once again shut down the economy. As proof, he notes that doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room, first responders and frontline workers have lower rates of the infection than the general population because they wear masks. The state has mounted a video contest for a public service announcement. Five finalists have been selected. To vote (by May 25) go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wear-mask. The winner will be unveiled on May 26. In just 2 ½ days, some 92,000 voted.
Bethpage Jones Beach Memorial Day Air Show Virtually
While there won’t be an actual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, you can see photo highlights of past shows here:
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