2008-06-20 / Editorial/Opinion

Summer Is Here, Lifeguards Are Not

Summer begins officially this weekend, but we have already seen several days that have been hot enough to qualify as late July or early August. What we have not seen once again this year are a sufficient number of lifeguards to open all of our beaches. Each year we get the same old, tired song from the city's Department of Parks and Recreation. "We have sufficient lifeguards to open most of the beaches on the weekends," they say, "and by July 4, all of the beaches will be open." They tell that fairy tale to Rockaway each year, and it never comes true. Many beaches remain closed, even on the weekends as the summer begins. Add to that the fact that most of the Neponsit beaches remain open while beaches in more populated areas where large building complexes line the beachfront, remain closed, even on hot weekends. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why beaches are open or closed, and nobody seems to want to say who makes the final decision. In any case, the Parks Department has once again failed to hire sufficient lifeguards to man the beaches. Officials admit that they have hired about 100 fewer lifeguards than last year, and vast stretches of beaches remained closed then. In addition, one long-time Rockaway lifeguard lieutenant has complained that her beaches are continually shortchanged because she spoke out against the hiring and testing process. The Parks Department is starting to sound to us like the Department of Buildings - replete with incompetence and, perhaps even corruption. It is time for a change in the hiring, testing and assignment processes. Rockaway deserves better than a long thin line of red flags each weekend.

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