Coney Island Beach Packed Sunday with Questionable Social Distancing


City Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate) on Friday slammed the de Blasio Administration’s follow through on beach safety recommendations and guidelines, especially in regards to lifeguards.

Treyger said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office mismanaged the entire system of reopening the beaches and the city lost precious time. In particular, this relates to a shortage of lifeguards, which reportedly has led to an unsocial distancing on city beaches such as Coney Island.

“Coney Island doesn’t have open streets or central parks, the beach is our Central Park,” said Treyger.

But the Park’s Department said it has since made some efforts to step up beach safety in and out of the water.

“We are confident that we have enough lifeguards to allow for a significant number of sections at every city beach to open safely every day.  We are not experiencing a ‘lack of lifeguards’ – attrition is commonplace throughout each season,” said Parks Department Spokesperson Dan Kastanis.

A Coney Island Lifeguard on duty yesterday. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Kastanis noted there are less lifeguards employed this year. Currently, there are 522 beach certified lifeguards and supervisors compared to last year’s estimated 600. 

All lifeguards have received personal protective equipment and have established protocols for rescues where lifeguards have direct physical contact with victims, said Kastanis, instead of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, lifeguards are now trained to administer aid via a CPR bag. 

“We’ve only recruited and hired returning beach lifeguards as the level of training and the difference in terrain are exponential,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite the dreary floods and rains Friday and early Saturday dampening the summer heat, New Yorkers of all shapes and sizes packed Coney Island Beach on Sunday like fleshy whales caught in the sun. 

A city worker doles out personal protective equipment near the bathrooms at the Coney Island Beach. Photo by Ariama C. Long

While the beach and boardwalk did lack the social distancing promised in the newly released Water Safety Campaign, men, women, and children happily frolicked through the water with a lifeguard in bright orange usually nearby. The bathrooms were open, usually, next to personal protection equipment (PPE) station, with staffing along the beach or on 4-wheeler motorbikes.

This is likely the most people Coney Island beach has had all at once since the official reopening, said one woman lifeguard at her post, but declined to comment further.