Lifeguards Secured For Beaches
Two Lives Saved From Near Drownings
By John C. McLoughlin
After the Parks Department announced two weeks ago that lifeguard coverage was still lacking on weekdays on a number of Rockaway’s beaches, residents of the peninsula and elected officials rallied together to resolve the problem, resulting in two swimmers being saved from near drownings.
Memorial Day Weekend came and went this year without a full contingency of lifeguards manning Rockaway’s beaches. Bob Lawson, a spokesperson for the Parks Department, told The Wave at that time that the situation "may improve as the summer goes on."
Residents were once again infuriated with the city’s lack of concern for Rockaway and the safety of thousands of beachgoers.
In late July the Parks Department announced that lifeguards would man the majority of Rockaway’s beaches on weekends. Beaches open for swimming include Beach 9 to 13 street, Beach 15 to 24 street, Beach 42 to 44 street, Beach 57 to 72 street, and Beach 72 to 149 street. Beach 13 to 15 street are open for fishing only; Beach 24 to 42 street are closed because of erosion and unsafe swimming conditions; and Beach 44 to 57 street are closed because of the Piping Plover, a bird on the Endangered Species List.
Although weekends were covered, several blocks of beach remained closed during the week. Beach 136 to Beach 143, blocks that attract numbers of families and visitors, were without lifeguards Monday through Friday.
Jaime Agoglia, a former lifeguard and Belle Harbor resident, organized a petition drive demanding lifeguards for the unmanned beaches. Agoglia said the Parks Department’s "lack of concern for safety" could result in a tragedy.
Belle Harbor residents would not stand for a tragedy. Rallying together, Agoglia was able to collect more than 2,000 signatures. With those signatures in hand, Agoglia forward the material to both Councilman Al Stabile and Councilman Noach Dear.
Within a matter of days, Dear and Agoglia met to discuss the issue. "Dear was great," Agoglia said. "He returned my call and responded."
Dear immediately contacted Parks Department Commissioner Henry Stern and worked to have lifeguards assigned to the beaches.
Dear said, "This was an unacceptable situation: a popular beach without the proper supervision of trained lifeguards. The lives of all visitors utilizing the beach were at risk. I am grateful to Parks Department Commissioner Henry Stern for all of his help. As always he has come through for the community."
Lifeguards were manning the beaches by Tuesday, August 1. The next day, lifeguard Kristin Hutton rescued a nine-year-old girl from a strong undertow and near drowning on Beach 140 street at approximately 1:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, August 8, lifeguard Dylan Farrell rescued a 35-year-old Hispanic lady who slammed into a jetty and was unconscious.
Noting his earlier prediction of a possible tragedy without lifeguards, Agoglia thanked Councilman Dear and others involved. "If not for your endeavors, this could have been a truly disastrous situation."
"I am pleased to have been able to be of assistance in this matter. This beach needed lifeguards and now it has them," Dear said.