Fire Island community leaders are vowing to crack down on partying, after a series of viral videos this weekend showed packed, mask-free revelry — and at least one beachgoer who defiantly wished his COVID-19 infection on others.
On Saturday, Suffolk County police twice responded to reports of "large groups of people with no masks, not social distancing" on the beaches at Fire Island Pines. Officers also said they received complaints about numerous house parties. No summonses were issued, according to a Suffolk County spokesperson.
But photos and videos posted to social media of crowded July 4th festivities prompted mainland reproach, and pleas from some locals for more social distancing enforcement. Much of the attention was directed at the Pines, one of the island's gay communities known for its hard-partying summer scene.
“We are distressed by the irresponsible behavior of some residents and visitors,” Jay Pagano, the president of Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association, said in a statement. "We need your help. If you see something, say something."
After speaking with local officers, who were initially "reluctant to disband" the parties, Pagano promised that in the future, “the police will stop any beach party occurring on Fire Island."
He added that the events had drawn the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has previously threatened to send state authorities after social distancing violators.
The poster boy for the weekend's controversy was one Corey Hannon, an NYC resident who posted to Instagram about his ongoing COVID-19 symptoms, while surrounded by other Pines beachgoers. After he was called out for breaking public health guidance, Hannon doubled-down in a video message that quickly went viral.
“You know what, I did have COVID. Everyone knows I had COVID, and you know what I did? I sat in my fucking bedroom and quarantined myself for eight fucking days and suffered through COVID," he said. "And now I’m out celebrating. So go fuck yourselves. I hope all of you get fucking COVID, you nasty nasty trolls.”
(On Monday, Hannon posted a sort-of apology video, in which he claimed his message was "misinterpreted," while also lashing out at "cancel culture.")
Many had expected the Pines' typically lively energy to be dimmed this summer. Weeks after Memorial Day, both the Pavilion Dance Club and Blue Whale restaurant remained closed, with visitors reporting little of the all-night debauchery long associated with the area.
But as much of New York has emerged from lockdown, the parties in the Pines have appeared to resume, drawing stern rebukes from some in the gay community.
"EVERYONE IN THIS PHOTO SHOULD BE ASHAMED," wrote Vinny Vega, an NYC club promoter, who reportedly survived COVID-19 earlier this year, in response to a photo of a packed party. "A bunch of sweaty, shirtless men in a night club would typically be a fun thing in my book...but not during a global pandemic."
P.J. McAteer, the managing director of the Pines commercial district, said in a statement that his weekend events, such as the drag-centered Invasion of the Pines, were held outdoors, with strict spacing and mask requirements.
"However, over the course of this weekend, there have been troubling images and videos circulating from house parties, beach parties, and Meat Rack parties taking place on the Pines," he wrote.
"We view some people getting off the Ferry and immediately removing their mask," he added. "Shame on those people."