2001-05-26 / Editorial/Opinion

Lifeguard Shortage Shortchanges Rockaway

Lifeguard Shortage Shortchanges Rockaway

There is no longer any doubt that at least a third of Rockaway’s beaches will be closed at times this summer. We find that unacceptable and hold the Parks Department and its boss, Henry Stern, responsible for the shortage that shortchanges Rockaway. Stern points to his $70 million recruiting drive, throws up his hands and says, "What can I do?" We will tell Stern what he can do. First of all, he can up the salary. The salary is not only noncompetitive with other things that young people can do during the summer, it is noncompetitive with other lifeguard jobs – at private pools, condo pools and even at beaches controlled by the National Park Service, including Riis Park, right next to Rockaway’s West End Beaches. Secondly, Stern can hire part time lifeguards, something that his agency has been loath to do in the past. We are sure that there are many police officers and firefighters who would love to do the job part time on their days off. In addition, there are many young people who go to college during the summer months and might be available only on a part time basis. Thirdly, we believe that the rule that there must be a lifeguard every 50 yards or so for a beach to be open can be changed without sacrificing safety. This is a relatively new rule and one that could be easily changed. While there is no guarantee that any or all of these changes would make the difference, we believe that some innovative things need to be done before this summer becomes a disaster for Rockaway residents seeking a little sun and fun. The last thing that Rockaway needs in the summer is for its beaches to be shortchanged by any government agency.

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