2008-08-01 / Top Stories

Riis Park Beaches Receive Lifeguard Boost

By Nicholas Briano

Congressman Anthony Weiner joins local elected officials, Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer and Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. along with National Park Service officials to announce $3 million in funding to nearly double the number of lifeguards on duty at Riis Park.
The dangerous tides that strike Rockaway's beaches have led officials and beachgoers alike to demand increased safety precautions, and Congressman Anthony Weiner has ensured that the federally operated Riis Park beaches will be fully staffed for the next ten years, by allocating the money needed to keep every bay at the federal park open and guarded.

Riis Park has 14 beaches, called "bays" in the federal system, and as many as five are closed each day during the peak summer season due to a shortage of staff, Weiner said at a press conference that he held Tuesday on the Riis Park boardwalk.

In response to the situation, Weiner has secured funds under a $3 million federal initiative for both new lifeguards and seasonal rangers that will help increase safety at Jacob Riis Park beaches.

Weiner hikes up his pant legs to talk to lifeguards along the beach, who will receive more company in the coming seasons.
The funding will enable Riis Park to fully staff beaches with lifeguards starting this summer, and continuing for the next ten years, Weiner says.

Over the past several years that the budget for Gateway National Park has not included sufficient funding to hire enough lifeguards to patrol all 14 beaches, he added.

An estimated 350,000 visitors visit the park each year, often facing overcrowded and closed beaches.

The Congressman states that the money will enable the feds to hire 15 lifeguards in addition to the 13 already hired to date.

"We have the finest groups of lifeguards on a set of the most glorious beaches in the country," Weiner said. "But we're still not 100 percent staffed."

This initiative will not have an impact on the New York City beaches just to the east of Riis Park, because those beaches are run by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, not the federal government.

Weiner, Addabbo, and Pheffer take to the sand to speak with one of the Jacob Riis Park Beach lifeguards.
Weiner, however, is calling on Mayor Bloomberg and the city to match the funding he provided to the federal park in order to insure that all of Rockaway's shoreline is guarded as well.

"Closed beaches are a thing of the past," Weiner said. "This is a dramatic improvement that will hopefully extend city-wide."

Councilmember Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., who was at the press conference, says the number of lifeguards employed by the City remains below full staffing levels. "This is a win-win situation for everyone," Addabbo said. "We still need more city lifeguards. We are just under 1,200 and with the dangerous condition we could use 1,300 to 1,500 lifeguards on the beaches."

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