State of the Beach/State Reports/NY

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New York


Beach access information in the form of online or print guides or maps in generally lacking, and the amount and quality of beach access is highly variable throughout the state. Many of the municipally-owned recreation facilities impose higher use fees on non-residents; some have physical limitations that affect potential use; and others have lacked adequate maintenance of facilities adjacent to the beach due to fiscal constraints. The state should develop a statewide inventory of shoreline structures and beach fill projects. Although beach water quality has improved over the last 30 years, additional controls over point sources and funds dedicated to sewer infrastructure improvements are needed.

New York Ratings


(+) The state has strong policies on shoreline stabilization structures, with construction of erosion protection structures permitted only when absolutely necessary and expected to provide at least 30 years of erosion control benefits.

(+) New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force produced a report that assessed the impacts of sea level rise and identified the greatest threats. The report includes recommendations for specific parties to take action and provides an estimate of implementation time.

(+) The Buyout and Acquisition Program is a proactive response to coastal hazards, and increases the resilience of coastal communities by creating more of a natural coastal buffer against future storms. In February 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed to spend as much as $400 million to purchase homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy, have them demolished and then preserve the flood-prone land permanently, as undeveloped coastline.

(+) In January 2015 New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of State (DOS) released for public comment a draft comprehensive ten-year New York Ocean Action Plan (OAP) which seeks to promote the restoration, conservation, resiliency and sustainable use of the state’s ocean ecosystem. More info.

(+) In June 2014 Northeast Ocean Data announced the release of easy-to-use interactive maps of water quality data for the northeastern states from New York to Maine. Based on data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the maps display No Discharge Zones, impaired waters, and wastewater discharges. Also shown on the maps are boundaries of watersheds and subwatersheds in the region. To view the water quality maps, go here.

(+) In October 2011 an article in the NY Times New Tactics and Billions to Manage City Sewage stated that the Bloomberg administration was set to commit $2.4 billion in public and private money over a 20-year period to introduce infrastructure to retain storm water before it reaches the sewer system and overloads it. The approach reflects a shift from traditional sewage-control methods to techniques like green roofs with plantings, porous pavement for parking lots and depressions for collecting water in parks.

(+) On June 4, 2009, Mid-Atlantic Governors signed an interstate agreement committing to improve the health of the Atlantic Ocean. Governors from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are creating a structure for the States to work together on: development of offshore renewable energy; increased protection of the most unique and sensitive offshore habitats; improved energy security and independence in the region; climate change and sea level rise; and, increased federal support for water quality infrastructure improvements. The agreement will create a Governors Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean to continue advocacy for and leveraging of greater state influence on the management of offshore ocean areas and to direct federal and interstate actions and resources.

(+) The New York City Council unanimously approved a Stormwater Management Plan in February 2008 that requires that a plan be drafted by October 1, 2008 that will focus on "natural methods" to reduce stormwater and sewage discharges. Rain barrels, cisterns, green roofs, redesign of drainage into vegetated areas and permeable paving are anticipated to be elements of the plan.

(+) A measure signed by President Bush in October 2006 authorizes $100 million for land acquisition, habitat protection and expanded public access in selected shoreline areas, and a list of 33 sites in New York and Connecticut where the money may be spent has been compiled.

(+) A bill passed in April 2006 by the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee created a New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council to coordinate state marine resources decisions, encourage ecosystem-based management approaches, and ensure that accurate information about the state of coastal fisheries is more widely available. It also called on the Council to create a comprehensive, ecosystem-based ocean management plan. UPDATE - The Final Report detailing how best to protect New York's Ocean and Great Lake Ecosystems was delivered to the NYS Governor and Legislature in April 2009.

(+) Governor Pataki included a new Ocean and Great Lakes Category in the expanded Environmental Protection Fund proposed in his 2006-2007 budget.

(+) Under average conditions, fecal coliform bacteria in New York harbor have decreased by as much as 98% since 1974. Water quality reportedly now meets state "bathing standards" in all open waters of the harbor.

(+) All of the shoreline below mean-high-water on Long Island is in public ownership.

(+) In March 2004, Governor Pataki announced more than $2.8 million in Environmental Protection Fund grants for 19 local projects that will expand recreational access and public amenities in Long Island communities, and protect and improve water quality.

(+) Beginning in 2003, New York City improved its rainfall advisory notification program. When rainfall exceeds preemptive standards, the Department of Health requires that beaches be posted with an “advisory in effect” sign for the duration of the wet weather advisory.

(0) The average erosion rate for the south shore of Long Island is 1-2 ft/year. This erosion rate is small compared to the rest of East Coast, but the south shore tends to experience significant erosion during major coastal storms.

(-) There are no statewide climate change or sea level rise adaptation plans, and no method for monitoring the implementation of regional plans.

(-) According to Environmental Advocates of New York, the state conservation fund dedicated to preserving open space and keeping water clean is virtually insolvent after having been drained by the Paterson administration to offset other spending. Nearly $500 million had been "swept" from the fund since it was established in 1993, including $125 million during the 2008-2009 fiscal year with another $50 million authorized. Meanwhile, authorized contracts and payments have been delayed.

(-) Many of New York's sewage and wastewater facilities are past their design lives; 30 percent of the sewer pipes across the state were installed just after World War II and a quarter of wastewater treatment plants are more than 30 years old. The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that repairs for municipal wastewater treatment systems statewide will be $36.2 billion over the next 20 years. Two wastewater treatment facilities in Nassau County, the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh and the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant have experienced significant problems due to delayed maintenance and needed upgrades.

(-) According to Environmental Advocates of New York, for almost 15 years, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation has failed to properly oversee and regulate the pollution discharged into New York’s waterways by more than 1,100 facilities.

(-) More than 27 billion gallons of combined sewer overflows from 460 sewers around New York City impact the city's waterways every year. The estimated combined sewer overflow volume for 2006 was 35 billion gallons.

(-) A study by Martin Cantor of Dowling College indicated that municipal and state beach closures from Memorial Day through Aug. 3, 2007 cost Long Island's tourism industry $60 million.

(-) New York City and New York State recently backtracked on a 1992 legal agreement to improve the sewer system to ensure water quality standards are achieved. The city now plans only limited improvements and to request that the standards themselves be relaxed.

(-) There are a total of 16 groins at Westhampton Beach Village. Four groins can be found in East Hampton. There are two groins in Ocean Beach, and there are numerous groins on Long Beach Island, Rockaway Spit, and Coney Island. Several groins are located along the north shore of Long Island.

(-) New York City has an antiquated law that prohibits use of NYC beaches from Labor Day to Memorial Day.


  • Northeast Regional Ocean Planning We are pleased to announce that on December 7, 2016, the National Ocean Council certified the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, launching us headlong into a more sustainable future and a paradigm shift in ocean management that looks at the ocean holistically as a system, rather than managing piecemeal by agency, spatial boundary, specific use, threat or species. Learn more by reading (and sharing!) our Coastal Blog. Now that the ocean plan is final, the Surfrider Foundation will engage in the vital work of implementation. Our staff and volunteers will continue to participate in ocean planning meetings to improve the iterative plan so that it best represents our goals in protecting the ocean and coastal ecosystems, and recreational areas. We'll be calling upon our ocean industry leader friends - surf shop owners, kayak tour guides, beachside pub and restaurant owners, SUP racers and the like - to help us engage locally as federal and state agencies begin to fully utilize the best practices established in the plan, and integrate the inherent expertise of our coastal communities and ocean users into decision-making processes that will inform the future of the sea.
  • Support Funding for Water Quality Improvements The Community Preservation Fund, financed by a 2-percent tax on most real estate transfers, was initiated in 1999. Since its inception, it has raised over $1 billion for open space and historic preservation in the five East End towns for community preservation and water quality protection purposes. Despite the great success in preserving open space, the eastern end of Long Island where the Eastern Long Island Chapter is based, has seen water quality become more and more impaired in its bays, lakes and coastal ponds due to ineffective wastewater treatement practices, largely septic systems. The Eastern Long Island Chapter joined a large coalition of local and regional community and environmental organizations to support the successful passage of a ballot measure to extend the Community Preservation Fund in the five east end towns and allow up to 20% of the funding to be spent on water quality improvement projects which will include incentives for replacing and upgrading septic systems, installation of reactive permeable barriers to remove nutrients from flowing into surface waters from contaminated groundwater, and stormwater management projects. The chapter supported the coalition's efforts to build voter support for the ballot measure by sharing their BWTF water quality data (Easthampton & Southampton) in the community to build awareness of pollution problems and talking about sources of pollution and the importance of this source of funding for solving problems in their educational and tabling events locally. Local press on this victory here.
  • Long Beach NY Bag Legislation The Central Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has teamed up with local groups like All Our Energy and the local chapter of the Sierra Club to form the Bring Your Own Bag Long Beach, (BYOBLB) who has advocated for a fee on paper and plastic checkout-type bags. In the summer of 2014 the Central Long Island Surfrider Foundation Chapter began tabling all events with a petition to gauge local interest in getting rid of plastic bags, while a local artist and activist Amanda Moore ran community activities to educate the public about the plastic pollution issues plaguing our oceans, even producing several reusable bags designed by young children and sold in farmers markets. Other groups were brought into the mix and the BYOBLB coalition started working in earnest on bag legislation in Long Beach. This coalition has worked hard to capture thousands of petition signatures, secure support from dozens of local businesses, host Bag It screenings all over town, create an alliance with the local Chamber of Commerce, get the City Council on board and relentlessly push the message of why Long Beach needs to #riseaboveplastics. Chapter volunteer Amanda Moore has spearheaded these efforts for Surfrider both through her Executive Committee position and with other members of Long Beach's Environmental Advisory Board, also strong advocates of the bag bill. A successful rally on July 19, 2016 organized by the BYOBLB coalition propelled the movement into the public eye even further and pressure mounted on the City to finalize a draft of the legislation. Chapter website post here. In October 2016, the City Council passed the legislation. News item here.
  • Suffolk County NY Bag Legislation The Eastern Long Island Chapter worked with other organizations on bag legislation for Suffolk County, the eastern half of Long Island. The legislation puts a five-cent fee on paper and plastic "carryout" bags in most stores. Chapter volunteers testified at two different hearings on the bill. Staff and volunteers also woked to make sure the "2.25 mils" loophole ws not part of this law. This loophole has allowed thicker bags, that are meant to be reuseable, away for free. Studies have found that when given away for free, even these thicker bags are often used once and thrown away. Citizen's Campaign for the Environment and and many other groups testified in favor of the fee.
  • NY Bag Fee Prohibition Stopped New York City had just passed a law placing a 5 cent fee on all single use checkout bags, when a NY State Senator introduced a bill to outlaw such local fees on bags. There was a State Senate hearing in NYC where Surfrider staff testified, but the bill quickly sailed through both a committee and the full Senate. All three Chapters in NY activated and countered the other side's misinformation and flooded the State Assembly with calls, and emails. Due to the pressure from the grassroots, the Assembly agreed to NOT post this bad bill for a vote, but the NY City Council also agreed to delay the implementation of the 5 cent fee law. So the NYC bag fee lives for now, but we may have to fight for it again next year.
  • NYC Bag Fee Legislation Surfrider Foundation's NYC Chapter along with the BagitNYC coalition succeeded in passing legislation putting a 5-cent fee on all single use checkout type paper and plastic bags. The bill allows the merchant to keep the fee and is aimed at reducing the 9 billion plastic bags NYC uses every year. Read more in the Coastal Blog Post here.
  • Port Ambrose LNG Facility Stopped After three years of amazing work by our volunteers in NY and NJ, Governor Andrew Cuomo used his authority under the Deepwater Port Act to veto this proposal on November 12, 2015. See the blog post on this huge win HERE.
  • Babylon, NY - Recycling on the beach (Gilgo Town Beach) The Central Long Island Chapter was successful in having the Town of Babylon add covered recycling containers on the beach alongside the trash containers at the town-operated Gilgo Beach. For a long time there were only trash containers on the beach and no recycling at Gilgo town beach. The existing trash containers were open and often spilling over with garbage, especially after busy summer weekends. Much of this plastic waste surely ended up on the beach or in the ocean. Furthermore, this is one of the few beaches where drinking is legal so bins were overflowing with beer cans in addition to all the soda and water containers you would expect on a normal beach. The Chapter wrote a letter to the town Supervisor Steve Bellone, they encouraged individuals to write the town, and they were getting petition signatures when the town produced the recycling bins just in time for the summer season of 2011. The Town of Babylon prides itself on its curbside recycling program and other environmental measures within the town, so it only made sense for them to provide that on their beaches too. NY now has an expanded bottle deposit law (see April 2009 victory) so all those plastic water bottles are now worth five cents. More info.
  • NJ/NY LNG Victory Surfrider Chapters in NY and NJ scored a major victory when the NJ Governor declared he would veto a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facility off of Asbury Park. This was on the eve of public hearings for the project named Liberty Natural Gas. Previous LNG applications were also withdrawn due to public opposition. The Liberty Natural Gas project was a proposed turret and pipeline under the seafloor. LNG tankers would have connected to the turret, re-gasified the LNG and pumped it into a pipeline system onshore in NJ. Proponents claimed it was different since it required no island to be built and no floating barge was needed. Several Chapters, especially Jersey Shore worked on this issue lead by groups like Clean Ocean Action and Food and Water Watch. The previous effort to defeat ASIG’s island proposal was lead mainly by the NYC Chapter.
  • No LNG Island The Atlantic Sea Island Groups, ASIG, withdrew their application to build a giant man-made island to serve as an LNG terminal in the Atlantic between NY and NJ. The NYC Chapter, ably assisted by the Central Long Island and Jersey Shore chapters, fought the proposal for years with the help of the NJ-based Clean Ocean Action. The Chapters gathered petition signatures to both NY and NJ Governors, they packed public hearings, they held press conferences, and they did paddle-outs. They even got the City of Long Beach, NY to send a letter to NY Governor Paterson opposing the project. Long Beach would have been the closest land to the island, 13 miles offshore. The island would have covered over 60 acres above the surface and more than 100 acres of the seafloor on the Cholera Banks, a natural reef and noted fishing area. Supertankers filled with LNG would unload at the facility and the gas would be piped to shore and up NY and NJ gas lines. Huge security zones would leave the area off limits to fishing, diving, and boating.
  • New York Passes Bigger Better Bottle Bill Environmental groups from across New York assisted in getting the state to successfully pass the Bigger Better Bottle Bill as part of the 2009-10 state budget. This momentous achievement is the first major overhaul of the state's bottle deposit law since it was created in 1982, and caps a grueling nine-year campaign to expand and update the law. The update expands New York's bottle return law to include water bottles, which comprise nearly a quarter of all beverages sold in New York. The law also requires beverage companies to return 80 percent of the unclaimed bottle and can deposits to the state, generating upwards of $115 million annually for the General Fund.
    "The Surfrider Foundation looks forward to cleaner beaches as a result of the improved bottle bill in NY. Thank you to the legislators who championed this cause and the ones who compromised to allow this," said Steff Zellinger, volunteer with the New York City Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. More info.
  • Stopped LNG Terminal in Long Island Sound Surfrider Foundation’s Connecticut Chapter, with support from the Eastern Long Island and New York City chapters, won a major victory in their campaign to stop the installation of a huge and dangerous Liquid Natural Gas project in Long Island Sound. Connecticut officials and environmental groups have been applying heavy pressure on New York State officials who had the final say on go/no-go. In late April 2008, NY Governor Patterson announced at a press conference NY's decision to effectively scuttle the project. Connecticut's Governor Jody Rell and AG Richard Blumenthal also held a press conference on the shores of the Sound. Mr. Blumenthal, who has been a consistent presence in the fight to stop this project, called this "an excellent case study of citizens advocacy, when government and citizens groups work together” to accomplish a common goal. Dozens of environmental advocacy groups, including the Surfrider Foundation, applied constant pressure to stop Broadwater through a wide range of actions, and found a cooperative state government that listened and worked in concert with us. As Mr. Blumenthal said, "citizens and state governments have shown today that it is possible to fight the Federal Government and win." More info
  • Central Long Island Pro Park Campaign The Central Long Island Chapter wanted to maintain the integrity of several of Long Island’s South Shore State Park beaches by keeping them intact; including the horizon. The now-cancelled proposal by the Long Island Power Authority to put an array of wind turbines in the view-shed of these parks was not acceptable to the Chapter. The Chapter wanted to preserve the seascape vistas of Jones Beach State Park, Robert Moses State Park, Gilgo State Park, and the Western portion of the Fire Island National Seashore. This victory means the parks will be passed along to future generations the way they were conceived by Robert Moses and the way they have been enjoyed for generations. To ensure minimal impact on the environment, the chapter asked for a full Environmental Impact Statement.
  • New Surfing Beach in NYC The New York City Chapter convinced the NY City Parks Department to open an additional surfing-only beach in Rockaway at 67th Street. More info.
  • Town of East Hampton, NY Approves New Coastal Legislation The Town Board of East Hampton, NY voted to approve new legislation to protect the Town's beaches and coastal resources. While creating a Coastal Erosion Hazard Overlay District, this new legislation has had the support of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation because it prohibits any new hard erosion control structures from being built on the Town's ocean beaches. More info.
  • First Legal Surfing Beach in NYC The New York City Chapter helped establish the first legal surfing beach in New York City. NYC Dept of Parks designated a "surf access" zone in the Rockaways on Earth Day, April 22, 2005.
  • Stopped Bad Long Beach NY Beach Fill Project The NYC, Central Long Island and Eastern Long Island Chapters convinced the Long Beach city council to unanimously reject a poorly-designed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach fill project.
  • Jones Beach and Moses Park opened to surfing access The Eastern Long Island Chapter succeeded in opening up Camp Hero State Park in Montauk to surfing.
  • The Eastern Long Island Chapter helped convince the East Hampton Town Board to ban the use of rock revetments or other hard structures in Montauk.

To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: New York
New York Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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