2001-05-05 / Front Page

Outlook Gloomy For Open Beaches

Outlook Gloomy For Open Beaches

By Howard Schwach

With the traditional opening of the summer season rapidly approaching, Parks Department officials are making clear the fact that many beaches in Rockaway will face closures once again this summer.

"I’m afraid the days of seven miles of open beaches are behind us," Parks commissioner Henry Stern recently told reporters.

Stern said that, despite the best efforts of his organization and a massive recruiting drive, it looks as though the city will fail to sign up the 400 lifeguards necessary to adequately staff the city’s ocean beaches, including the beaches in Rockaway.

He added that a shortage of lifeguards would force the city to once again close a large number of the Rockaway beaches.

While confirming that the recruiting of lifeguards is not going well, Stern said that "it is really too early to tell," whether beaches will be closed or not this summer.

"We will know by the end of the spring how severe the shortage will really be."

The shortage remains into May despite the fact that the Parks Department invested more than $70 thousand in a city-wide campaign to attract candidates to the job.

The bottom line, one local official says is that "Rockaway beaches could very well be dotted with fences and ‘Beach Closed’ signs when the hot weather hits."

One local storeowner, who asked to remain anonymous, blamed the Parks Department for the failure to recruit a sufficient number of lifeguards to staff Rockaway beaches.

"They did too little, too late," he said. "They took the training facility out of Rockaway where local kids could take the position and put it in Corona, where nobody wants to go."

"If this is another disastrous summer because the beaches are closed," he added, "there will be nobody to blame but Stern and his crew."

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