When I considered forging a commentary on Memorial Day, I thought about our present situation — where we’re all caught between a rock and a hard place. Open the beaches or not? Gather in front of bars or not? Hold a BBQ or not, and with whom and how many? Here in New York, the rules differ from Manhattan to the other boroughs; Long Island versus places along the Hudson, from Westchester to further upstate. And then there are the rules for New Jersey and Connecticut.
But it also prompted thoughts based on the calendar, besides being the unofficial start of summer. Previously called Decoration Day, this federal holiday is now observed on the last Monday in May, when many people visited cemeteries and held memorials to honor and mourn those who died in military service. But with the shutdown in effect, this can’t exactly be acted upon. So I also mused about Memorial Day’s point and purpose, especially when viewed through a lens that took into account both the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings and the gun-toting protesters rankled by CV-19 restrictions.
In case you don’t recall the reference, the Kent State shootings — also known as the May 4th Massacre or the Kent State Massacre — took place in 1970, during a peace rally against both the Vietnam War’s expansion into neutral Cambodia as well as against the National Guard presence on campus. Four unarmed college students were shot by 28 Ohio National Guard soldiers at Kent State University, marking the first time a student was slain in an anti-war rally in American history.
The fatal shootings triggered immediate and massive outrage on campuses around the country. More than four million students walked out at hundreds of universities, colleges and high schools, the largest strike in United States history. The student strike of 1970 further affected public opinion about America’s role of the in Vietnam, at a really contentious time.
I thought of that pivotal point in history in which protestors fought against a government juggernaut engaged in an undeclared war against an implacable enemy fighting for its own survival. Our “adventure” in Vietnam might have once had an idealistic rationale, but by the time of Kent State, this protracted war seemed like it was nothing more than egos pitted against each other.
With Lucinda Williams’ song “You Can’t Rule Me” rocking away in the background, I thought about the armed protestors resisting some of the lockdown’s restrictions in Michigan and elsewhere. Once I experienced the true ravages of the disease, I realized how much this pause was needed; the disease is real and regardless of how one assesses the numbers, these heavily armed thugs having a temper tantrum over constraints on their lives was no expression of the sort of selflessness displayed at Kent State. Rather, they appeared to be militating for the freedom to selfishly infect others rather than to protect freedom.
So when the governors of these three states are cautiously reopening in time for us to enjoy the holiday weekend, I hope all will accept the limitations while also realizing that it would be nice to resume some semblance of life as it was.
Five of New York’s 10 regions started reopening on Friday, May 15th. The Jersey Shore will be open, with limits, by Memorial Day weekend.
For a five-county section of central New York including Syracuse, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on May 14th that some businesses including curbside retail could swing back into gear.
Other areas covered by the order are the Finger Lakes, including Rochester; the Southern Tier, which borders Pennsylvania; the Mohawk Valley, west of Albany; and the rural North Country, which includes the Adirondack Mountains.
The rest of the state, including New York City, has not yet achieved the seven health-related benchmarks required by Mr. Cuomo to begin reopening, but some beaches will be available with social distancing restrictions in place.
New Jersey’s beaches, a major tourist draw and economic engine, will open in a limited way by Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer, according to Gov. Philip Murphy.
The move, which Murphy called “getting toward the edge of what we can responsibly do,” is a major step toward a broader reopening of one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
The rules governing how beaches can operate were officially laid out in an executive order signed by Mr. Murphy. Under the order, which takes effect May 22, local governments that run beaches and boardwalks in their jurisdictions have the discretion in imposing restrictions while re-opening. Local officials will have to enact social distancing rules for beaches, including limiting their capacity and requiring that people stay six feet apart, the Governor said.
Organized and contact sports will be prohibited, as will large organized events, including fireworks displays that could draw crowds.
Boardwalk restaurants will only be able to offer takeout and delivery. Amusement parks, arcades and other diversions will remain closed.
Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but beach life in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be different this year.
The waters of Rockaway Beach, Coney Island or Orchard Beach are closed as the season starts.
Other places in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have established social distancing requirements, limited capacity or even limited access to residents.
Here’s a run down:
New York State
State run beaches will be open from Memorial Day Weekend with restrictions in place to ensure social distancing. Some Long Island beaches including Long Beach and Nickerson Beach are restricting access to residents only. Jones Beach and Robert Jones Beach will close their gates once capacity reaches 50 percent. Westchester County’s beaches at Playland and Croton Point parks will be open for Memorial Day weekend, from Friday through Monday.
Beaches, boardwalks, lakes and lakeshores in New Jersey can reopen, permitted that social distancing measures are followed. Restaurants and bars are still limited to delivery and take-out services only. Amusement parks and arcades, and other places of public amusement remain closed. Any outdoor seating, such as tables or benches, must be removed, taped off or otherwise blocked.
People should wear face coverings, especially when social distancing is difficult, such as when waiting in lines. Local government restrictions to limit physical interactions include non-discriminatory capacity restrictions; social distancing; and lifeguard training and beach operation including COVID-19 considerations. Benches and tables are off-limits and boats can’t hold group gatherings. And there are many complicated rules too numerous to list allowing some reopening for this weekend and beyond.
Connecticut’s shoreline state park beaches were never closed, and have remained open with capacity restrictions, which remain in place. Visitors are advised to follow social distancing guidelines. Residents are encouraged to select locations closest to home, and to consider visiting early in the morning before crowds gather. At least six feet of social distancing must be maintained, and groups over five are prohibited. Residents should recreate with members of their immediate household and not meet up with others. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will reduce parking capacity and close beaches for the day if social distancing cannot be maintained, and will make adjustments to operations and consider longer-term closures the situation warrants. Updates on closures are posted on the Connecticut State Parks’ Twitter account, @CTStateParks. Connecticut municipalities continue to make decisions regarding the local beaches and swimming areas they oversee.