2007-06-08 / Community

Deputy Parks Commissioner Answers Critics About Lifeguard Testing

By Miriam Rosenberg

By Miriam Rosenberg

For over a year, Community Board 14 has been working to change the lifeguard testing system that many say is broken. Last month, at CB14's May meeting, the board showed a high level of frustration as they claimed that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation had gone back on promises made at a meeting in March regarding the testing procedures.

According to Dan Mundy, the chair of the board's Ad Hoc Lifeguard/Beach Committee, Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh made several promises in March that were not kept, including putting up a competition time clock for lifeguard candidates to see their times, monitors to insure candidates are treated fairly and a report card for candidates to know exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Kavanagh, in an interview with The Wave on Wednesday, disputes the charges of broken promises.

"There has been a clock since we began testing new applicants," said Kavanagh. "It was not the kind they wanted." He was referring to a digital time clock, which is the type of clock CB14 originally suggested for the testfrom page 13

ing. According to Kavanagh, a digital clock had recently been installed.

Kavanagh also addressed the issue of having someone monitor the testing procedures. "That's one issue I agreed to consider," explained Kavanagh. "I decided there's no grounds to install a monitor at the school [where the testing is done]."

In a letter to Kavanagh dated April 2, Delores Orr, the president of CB 14, noted there was an agreement for a meeting to be held between Kavanagh and City Council members Helen Foster (who chairs the council's Parks and Recreation committee) and Joseph Addabbo Jr. "to reach an agreement on having a suitable independent person/monitor at each and every testing session."

Addabbo told The Wave on Thursday that a conference call between him, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was held on the issue.

"[Parks] said there is no recorded complaints of any abuse," said Addabbo. "Based on that we could not go forward on the monitor.

"It's also a labor issue. It's not in the terms of the contract. It has to be negotiated the next time the contract is up, and the city just negotiated a contract."

To highlight his point that he never broke any promises, Kavanagh referred to The Wave's article of March 30, 2007 that reported on the meeting between Kavanagh and CB14 at Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office.

In that article Pheffer, Addabbo, CB14 district manager Jonathan Gaska and Mundy all agreed that Parks and DC37 (the lifeguard union) were considering several suggestions contained in CB14's report, but that no final decisions were reached at the meeting.

"My position all along has been I never made promises that I didn't keep to these people," said the Deputy Commissioner.

However, Kavanagh's critics on the community board also say he never answered letters sent to him.

On September 14, 2006 Gaska sent a letter containing a list of 12 items, which the board's committee on parks requested to help them make their recommendations for lifeguard and beach operation improvements. On May 8, Gaska said he still had not received a response.

"They issued their report less than two weeks after their requests," said Kavanagh. "They restricted the hearings to invited guests. Since they issued the report, it seems they didn't need it."

After further questioning, Kavanagh said he would send the information CB14 requested back in September.

Kavanagh also said he never received the April 2 letter from CB14 president Orr that outlined the agreements and suggestions that came out of the March meeting.

"I don't understand that," Kavanagh said. "I didn't receive it until it was handed to me on Friday." The new developments came after Mundy and fellow CB14 board member Hank Iori gave copies of the aforementioned letters and report to Kavanagh and Benepe at the opening of Rockaway's beaches last Friday, May 25.

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