"I started to cry I was so happy," Long Beach resident Sheila Wexler said. "Life is getting back to normal."
Special police officers patrolled the boardwalk to make sure people were not congregating, were obeying social distancing, and were wearing masks when they could not be more than six feet apart.
"Hopefully, they'll keep it open and people won't make any mistakes and congregate," Atlantic Beach resident Alan Friedman said. "And everybody will social distance, and we'll all have a good summer."
Bikes are allowed on the boardwalk only from sunrise until 10 a.m. daily in order to allow social distancing of pedestrians for the rest of the day.
Long Beach residents said they support the city's decision to restrict beach access to only city residents for as long as the New York City beaches remain closed.
"I understand other people want to get out," Long Beach resident Evelyn Chugerman said. "They're desperate for it, but the town can't handle it. The restaurants aren't open, so they're just going to come here. No, not at this point. We're trying to get healthy first."
Under normal circumstances, the City of Long Beach would not be able to restrict access to the beach because the city receives federal funding for beach maintenance through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Federal rules stipulate that a municipality cannot exclude people from the beach if it has benefited from federal funds.
The Army Corps of Engineers just finished replenishing sand and completing dune work at Long Beach.
"Temporary restrictions on the recreational use of the areas within the project limits, based upon emergency declarations to ensure social distancing, will be determined by local health officials and authorities in consultation with NYSDEC and USACE," said Michael Embrich, a spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said he has confirmed with federal officials that the City of Long Beach will not be penalized for restricting access to only city residents.
"Our federal officials, along with us, have reached out to the Army Corps and they've said, 'Look this is an emergency situation. We're not going to penalize you. We're not going to jeopardize future projects. Just make sure you're only doing this when you have to,'" Kaminsky said.
Starting Saturday, unless you are one of the 30,000 residents who live in Long Beach, you can't get on the beach.
Officials say it will help them maintain state requirement of not allowing the beach to get more than half full.
The decision comes on heels of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's decision to also restrict Nickerson Beach to county residents.
That leaves state beaches -- Robert Moses and Jones Beach -- as options, but they will close their gates once they reach 50% capacity.
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