2009-08-28 / Top Stories

Sanders Calls For 'Common Sense' On Beach

Wants Increased Use Of FRHS Pool
By Howard Schwach

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. seems unsure of just why there have been so many drowning incidents on Rockaway's beaches this summer.

"My friends, something is either happening to the water or [to] our common sense," Sanders said at a recent emergency meeting he called to address the fact that six people have died in Rockaway waters this summer. "To prevent further tragedy, we must examine extending beach hours, additional lifeguards and educating the public as to the power of Mother Nature."

"If you're swimming in the late night or early in the morning, when there is no lifeguard present, you are taking your life in your own hands," Sanders added.

Sanders recommended several things that he believes may help to save lives.

One of those is to stagger the hours that lifeguards serve on the beaches, a recommendation that has been made many times in past years.

"Many people come home from work and want to enjoy the beach before the sun goes down," Sanders says.

The Parks Department and the union that represents the lifeguards have not been receptive to the idea, however, stating that staggering the hours would mean closing more beaches during the day, something that the city agency does not want to do.

Sanders also wants more lifeguards stationed at east end beaches so that more beaches are open regularly in the area that he represents.

"The population at the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula is greater than at the western end and we have dramatically fewer open beaches and lifeguards," Sanders says.

The Parks Department answers that beaches are opened on the basis of population that uses the beaches, and not on general population.

"We put the lifeguards where they are needed most," said a Parks Department spokesperson.

Finally, Sanders wants to increase the hours at the swimming pool at Far Rockaway High School "as an alternative for beach-goers."

At the meeting, which was held a week ago at the Peninsula Hospital Center, several locals called for larger warning signs on the beach telling would-be swimmers of the dangerous rip currents that course through the ocean waters.

"Although I am calling on the Parks Department to make certain changes," Sanders said, "I am also calling on the beach-goers to use common sense when on the beach. I urge them to report problems to lifeguards and to swim only when lifeguards are on duty."

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