In January 2020 we received multiple inquiries from readers about online posts that claimed New York state required a specially designated "stargazing permit" for those wishing to take in the night sky at certain public parks.
On Jan. 27 the right-leaning website Red State published an article with the headline "New York Requires Citizens to Obtain ‘Stargazing Permit’ To Admire the Stars in Public Parks." That piece reported as follows:
Here is a story that shows progressive policies to be not only destructive, but also depressingly stupid. New York State recently passed a law requiring citizens to obtain a permit if they wish to gaze at the stars in public parks. No, really. You read that right. In New York, you must pay for a license to look at the freaking stars.
The Free Thought Project first reported on the story, explaining that “If citizens of the state wish to look up at the sky and view the stars at one of New York’s public parks, they will first have to obtain a ‘Stargazing permit.’” The site pointed out that pollution in the sky makes it more difficult for New Yorkers in “highly populated areas” to see the sky at night, so they travel to remote areas, many of which are located in state parks.
The state is charging residents $35 to become a fully-licensed stargazer allowed to view the stars between January and December of the year. If you are not lucky enough to be a New York resident and you are just visiting, you will have to fork over $60 for the privilege of admiring your favorite constellation in the night sky.
Red State's report followed a Jan. 24 post on the libertarian website Free Thought Project.
The core claim in those reports — that New York state required a specially designated stargazing permit for certain public parks — was accurate. In December 2019, the New York state agency for Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation published the details of the 2020 stargazing permit, which allowed "after sunset parking for stargazing only" at six designated state parks on Long Island, New York:
$35 NYS resident fee / $60 non-NYS resident fee
Valid Motor Vehicle Registration required.
Driver’s License of Motor Vehicle Registrant required for NYS residents.
This permit allows after sunset parking for stargazing only at the following parks:
▪ Hither Hills: Except July & August
▪ Jones Beach: West End 2 and Field 6
▪ Montauk Point: Upper Parking Lot
▪ Robert Moses: Field 2
▪ Sunken Meadow: Fields 1 & 3
▪ Wildwood: Main Parking Lot
Although the stargazing permit came to prominence in January 2020, it was not new, contrary to Red State's claim that "New York State recently passed a law requiring citizens to obtain a permit if they wish to gaze at the stars in public parks." In fact, the stargazing permit has been in existence since December 2016.