2005-06-17 / Editorial/Opinion

Some Problems Just Don’t Have Solutions

Somebody once said, “The beginning of wisdom is the understanding that there are problems without solutions.” I don’t know who said it, and not even the Web helped in finding out the original author, but whoever is was, he or she probably had the beach on Rockaway in mind. As you all know by now, a young man was lost in the raging surf at Beach 94 Street two weeks ago. A forty-year-old man who went to his rescue suffered coronary arrest and died before he could be taken to the hospital. The tragedy is further proof that our ocean beaches are dangerous, particularly when there are no lifeguards on duty. Politicians and would-be politicians are already lining up to provide a quick fix to the problem. Extend the hours, says Lew Simon and James Sanders, Jr. How can we do that,” the city asks. “We don’t have enough lifeguards to open all of the beaches during the present, shorter hours.” Put in the old Ropes and Barrels,” says Simon. “Panic is panic and the ropes and barrels were removed because they did no good where drowning is concerned,” said an ex-lifeguard supervisor who worked on the beach in the 60’s. Put up larger “No Swimming When Lifeguards Are Not On Duty,” signs says activist Floyd Smith. “Make them in more languages.” All well and good, and perhaps a band aide approach, but you could place a fence along the beachfront, keep lifeguards on the beach until midnight and put up 10 foot signs in thirty languages, and we would bet that, at three minutes after midnight, some kids would climb over the fence, ignoring the sign and find a way to drown in the surf. Perhaps we should just put some blame on the people who ignore the signs and take a dip when there are no lifeguards. We have been told that the group of young men who were playing football on the beach were told both by lifeguards going off duty and then by Park Enforcement Police that the beach was closed. They chose to ignore those warnings at their own peril. There is one thing that might help keep the beaches open longer, and that is hiring part-time lifeguards, something the Department of Parks refuses to do. Hiring part-timers would open the door to police officers, firefighters, lifeguards who have moved on to real jobs. They could man the beaches on a “when available” basis that would allow for longer beach hours. Even that, however, will not solve the problem of those who flout the law because they think that nothing can happen to them.

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