The enforcement of strict rules apparently written by non-swimming and non-surfing bureaucrats is spoiling a beautiful summer season for many of us. Apparently in reaction to the tragic drowning of three young visitors last summer, people who safely swam and surfed for years are being chased and ticketed.
Selective enforcement by individual officers is dangerous, but there is a better solution. Many local residents and regular visitors are excellent swimmers, divers, and surfers. Persons meeting standards set by the Parks Department in consultation with the Red Cross, Surfriders and other appropriate organizations should be issued cards and patches. The police and parks enforcement could devote their efforts to looking out for the unwary visitors who are the most frequent victims.
Other actions to improve water safety should include opening the pools at Far Rockaway and Beach Channel High Schools for regular swimming classes and the awarding of swimming certificates throughout the year. The Red Cross has provided this service in other communities.
The ropes and barrels which assisted swimmers on Rockaway beaches should be returned. Part time lifeguards should be employed to cover selected areas in the early morning and evening when the water is so inviting.
Public hearings on new rules or newly enforced rules should be held when all interested parties can participate. In the meantime all new enforcement policies should be suspended.
The huge public parking lot on Parks Department property on Seagirt Blvd. from Beach 10 St. to Beach 16 St. which provided free parking for hundreds of local residents and visitors each beach day has been taken over by a private operator who charges $6.00, even for those people who come for a quick swim after a day's work. Is this money going to improve our beach and boardwalk or is it being pocketed by some well-connected individuals?
P.S. Dozens of potential bathers and swimmers were kept out of the cool ocean along the beach from Beach 9 to Beach 17 Street Tuesday evening from six to eight p.m. A temporary Parks Department employee on forced overtime blew his whistle whenever anyone approached the water, including people who tried to clean their feet, or wash out sandy pails. A group of middle-aged Russian women who regularly swim at that beach were unable to do so.
For decades this beach has been a favorite spot for locals and visitors who enjoy the cool water on hot evenings. There are almost no waves, except during storms. A strong current is present when the tides are coming in or out. Experienced swimmers swim with the current and swim diagonally toward shore when they have completed their swim.
I am now in touch with Council Member Addabbo's office. Addabbo is Chair of the Parks Committee, which includes beaches. We hope they are successful in solving these problems.