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Town supervisors to form task force that will coordinate summer policies such as beach openings

A task force combining supervisors from all the Suffolk County towns, as well as those in Nassau County, will start a collaborative effort to look at ways the towns can coordinate summer programs and facilities. Part of that would be common policies toward beach openings, for example.

The Suffolk County Supervisors Association held a joint press conference via Zoom Friday morning with 13 town supervisors, where they emphasized that upcoming summer season will be unlike any in recent memory due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The “unprecedented” effort will be known as the Nassau/Suffolk Towns Summer Operations Task Force.

Three main components the task force will work to coordinate include:

• Public health messaging

• Opening and possible re-closing timelines

• Beach, park and playground policies

The supervisors announced a goal of issuing joint guidelines by May 18 to allow enough time for planning and staffing to be put in place before the start of the summer season.

Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer said the summer season has to be different “in order to protect everyone’s health and safety.”

“This isn’t about you, it’s about your neighbor, your relative, somebody who could be negatively impacted by what you do,” he said.

The task force will work to send recommendations to the county and state levels of government.

Mr. Schaffer said each town will still roll out its individual plans for permitting, which facilities are open and staffing.

“We’re going to try to come up with general guidelines that we will then send up for approvals,” he said.

Shelter Island Supervisor Gerry Siller said the Island is “taking it slow.” Beaches have not officially been closed, he told a meeting of the Town Board later in the day, but strict social distancing is being encouraged.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town is currently honoring 2019 beach permits and by May 15, beach parking permits will start to be issued to town residents. Beaches and parks are currently open to passive use, she said.

“As the weather gets better and more residents go to our beaches, we are going to increase our enforcement,” she said. “The goal here is social distancing and compliance, not necessarily to issue fines or go after beachgoers. We are just interested in compliance.”

Signage for the beaches has been ordered to remind residents of the guidelines.

“Holding this type of forum with my colleagues is a great pro-active approach,” she said.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town will be balancing the public’s need for recreation with public safety.

“Everybody’s getting a little antsy, I understand that,” he said. “At the same time, balance that out against public health. I have a great deal of faith in the community, in the public for being able to use our public access in a responsible way. At the same time we need to put safeguards in place to make sure that happens. … Out of fairness to the public, they have to know what the rules are.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said what one town does will affect another, so coordination is critical.

In Southampton, he said there are over 300 miles of coastline.

“It’s also tied very closely into our tourism economy, which is really important for creating jobs and economic stimulus for the county,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We do want to try to keep our beaches up and running to the greatest degree possible.”

Reducing parking, eliminating pinch points or possibly closing some beaches could all be possibilities, he said.

The Nassau County towns participating were Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay.