2007-02-23 / Community

Parks Department 'Uncooperative' On Lifeguard Issues: CB14

Others Want City Council Hearing Date Set Now
By Brian Magoolaghan

Community Board members want Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (above) to schedule the oversight hearings on lifeguard issues that he promised.Community Board members want Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (above) to schedule the oversight hearings on lifeguard issues that he promised.

A top Community Board 14 representative is accusing the Department of Parks and Recreation of trying to scuttle the board's efforts to investigate lifeguard issues, according to a letter obtained by The Wave.

In the letter CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska expresses his frustration with high-level Parks personnel and says they've completely ignored his request for basic information.

The request, which was sent in September, 2006, asked for a dozen documents or points of information such as a breakdown for the 65 students that attended a pilot Department of Education program and were allegedly marked for failure because they didn't participate in the city's traditional system. The board wants to know who passed, who failed and who ultimately went to work at a pool or beach. They also requested copies of lifeguard procedures, training manuals and the union contract.

But it seems the letter was ignored, which prompted Gaska to write this in a letter on February 9, 2007.

"On September 14, 2006 I wrote to Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh on behalf of the Community Board requesting some specific information that our Parks committee needed to help it complete its recommendations regarding the lifeguard issue," Gaska wrote. "As of today, we have not received a response in ANY form," he added. "I think you would agree that five months is more than patient on our part and it appears intentionally uncooperative on your agency's part."

Cristina DeLuca, a spokesperson for Parks, told The Wave that the agency didn't respond because there wasn't enough time between the date of the initial request and the board's release the following month of a damning report on lifeguard and beach matters.

"It just didn't give us enough time to respond," said DeLuca. "Unfortunately they published their report without getting any info from us."

Asked why Parks hadn't responded in any way to either letter DeLuca responded by saying, "That I don't have any information on."

Meanwhile, board members are continuing to call for City Council oversight hearings into a range of lifeguard issues they've been raising since the end of last season. A small, roundtable meeting between elected officials, board members, Parks and representatives from DC37, the union representing city lifeguards, was supposed to have already taken place but was cancelled twice.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, who invited fellow councilmember Helen Foster, the chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, to Rockaway last year, said the roundtable will either eliminate the need for council oversight or be the prelude to a council "investigation" into lifeguard issues.

But CB14 member Dan Mundy, who has been outspoken on these issues, says a council hearing date should be set already. "We don't have a date set for an oversight hearing, and I can't understand why we don't have that scheduled." Mundy told The Wave. "That's what really worries me… We're losing momentum."

Pat Kilgallen, a member of CB14 ad hoc Lifeguard and Beach Issues Committee echoed Mundy's sentiments. "A lot of us are getting frustrated," he said. "This school bus fiasco got oversight hearings very quickly… We're waiting on Joe Addabbo to deliver on his promise."

It remained unclear at press time when and where the roundtable meeting would talk place.

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