2006-03-24 / Editorial/Opinion

Think 'Out Of The Box' When Hiring Lifeguards

Exactly one year ago, thanks to City Councilman Joseph Addabbo and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Rockaway got its first-ever "Surfing Only Beach," a place where surfers could go to ply their avocation without worrying about lifeguards and silly beach access rules. The two local politicians had to do battle with the yahoos as the Department of Parks and the State Department of Health, but they got the job done and Rockaway benefited. The Wave ran a front-page article about the Surfing Only Beach. In that article, we also addressed the possibility of changing the lifeguard-hiring paradigm by hiring part-timers for our ocean beaches as well as by changing the hours on some beaches to allow those who come home late from jobs in Manhattan to enjoy a quick swim before dinner. We won the first battle. We got the surfing beach. We are still waiting, however, for any movement by the Parks Department in changing beach hours or in hiring part-time lifeguards. Each year, more and more beaches are closed to Rockaway residents because of a critical shortage. The Parks Department has been working with the Department of Education to hire more full-time lifeguards, but we will not know the outcome of that program until it is too late for this summer to do something different. There are many ex-lifeguards and others (police officers and firefighters come to mind) who have moved on to "adult" lives, but would love to work on the beaches part time. Hiring those qualified people would solve both problems. It would put more lifeguards on the beach and it would create a roster of those who would love to work after the regular beach hours have closed our beaches. We have been told that the city's contract with the Lifeguard Union does not allow for part-timers. The mayor and his negotiators have changed nearly every city worker contract over the past several years. Why not the lifeguard contract? It is time to think out of the box so that our beaches are fully manned and open this summer.

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