2007-07-27 / Community

Park Department's Pledge To The Rockaway's

Park Department's Pledge To The The Rockaway's
117th street, renovated two lifeguard trailers at Beach 32nd and 86th, and installed an ADA-accessible mobimat at Beach 116th, which allows disabled visitors to reach the water's edge. We will also be restoring the boardwalk at Beach 20-23rd and Beach 70-80th, installing new ramps at Beach 24th and 104th, and renovating the picnic area at Beach 90th. As a result of conversations with the community about their needs, we opened the City's second surfing beach at Beach 67-69th Streets and are coordinating the development of a dog run and increasing programming such as fitness activities, cricket permitting, skateboarding competitions and family events such as Movie Night. And with Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC, even more is to come at Rockaway Beach with the allocation of $40 million to build beachfront facilities such as comfort stations, lifeguard buildings and playgrounds in the area. This project has long been on the community's wish list and longtime residents and elected officials are thrilled to see it coming to fruition.

While we want to ensure that every beachgoer has an enjoyable experience at the best facilities available, our first priority is that they have a safe visit. The Parks Department knows better than anyone the importance of recruiting as many qualified lifeguards as possible to staff City beaches. Each year, Parks launches an aggressive recruitment effort, with extensive outreach to community boards, elected officials, schools, libraries, and swim teams in New York City and across the country. We also have aggressive domestic and international marketing, promotion and recruitment efforts that have resulted in a 20 percent increase in applications this year over last and a new record of 1090 lifeguards, the most ever, for the 2007 summer swim season. This record number of lifeguards has allowed us to open more beach for swimming on a regular basis than in previous years. In fact, we have had all of the lifeguard chairs at swimming sections open and staffed every day since July 4th and hope to continue that practice until lifeguards begin returning to school in August.

In addition to a record number of lifeguards, Parks seeks to recruit the guards are rigorously trained through the program, many of our strongest swimmers are placed at Rockaway Beach because of its added difficulty as the beach with the most open water and therefore large waves and strong currents and undertows.

We're also dedicated to training the next generation of lifeguards. In 2006, nearly 12,000 New York City children participated in Parks' free Learn to Swim program. The program was expanded this year, adding additional sites and sessions to serve more children. Also, during the 2006 school year, nearly 7,000 additional children learned water safety skills through the free program, Swim to Safety. This is a partnership with the Department of Education and the YMCA to teach young children basic water safety skills and reduce water-related child mortalities.

Beachgoers are flocking to the waterfront in record numbers- more than 2.1 million of them to Rockaway Beach during the 2006 season- and last summer there were no drownings at any city beach during operating hours. We encourage all beachgoers to follow water safety rules, listen to their lifeguards, and most importantly, only swim when there is a lifeguard on duty. We look forward to this summer being another safe, fun and rewarding season at Rockaway Beach and to the continued improvements that will make the Rockaways a premier waterfront destination for local residents and visitors.

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