2006-12-08 / Front Page

Parks Dept. Kicks Off Lifeguard Recruitment

By Brian Magoolaghan

You wouldn't know it, but the Department of Parks and Recreation has launched an updated and expanded lifeguard recruitment program - several months ahead of schedule - for the 2007 beach and pool season.

As usual, candidates must be able to swim 50 yards in 35 seconds with proper form; have a minimum of 20/30 vision in one eye and 20/40 in the other, without corrective lenses; and must be at least 16 years old by time they start working as lifeguards.

What's new this year is that Parks has expanded its tryouts to 10 locations throughout the five boroughs. Those who meet the requirements and can swim the "50 in 35" will be required to complete Parks' free lifeguard training program that starts in January. Those who don't pass the time trials may be invited to attend free swimming clinics designed to improve candidates' swimming technique and physical conditioning.

While the changes make it more convenient than ever to try out for an awesome summer job, it seems few people got the word due to a public relations blunder. Parks announced the recruitment drive by posting a press release on its website on November 27, the same day tryouts were held at a high school in Brooklyn and just one day before tryouts were held at Far Rockaway High School. In fact, by the time you read this about two-thirds of the scheduled tryouts will have already taken place.

Last year, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe hosted a major recruitment kickoff event with special-guests including Olympic athletes and city politicians to publicize lifeguarding as one of the best summer jobs around (lifeguards make at least $11.72 an hour and work a 48-hour week). This year's kickoff was a flop in terms of media coverage; The Wave searched New York's daily newspapers and the Internet and found only one report in another weekly publication.

The changes Parks has made to its approach to recruitment and training are in line with some of the recommendations Community Board 14 recently made, but CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska took issue with the lack of a publicity push. "Where did they hold this press conference, in a phone booth?" said Gaska. "They didn't notify us in any way, shape or form."

Information about the remaining tryout opportunities and lifeguarding is available at www.NYC.Gov/Parks or by calling (212) 397-3157.

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