2010-07-09 / Editorial/Opinion

One Last Plea For Ropes And Barrels

There is a simple device that, we believe, would have put a quick stop to many of the seven drownings on the Rockaway peninsula last year as well as the first death this year. When we were young, the Rockaway beachfront was dotted every 25 feet or so with floating barrels supporting ropes that ran perpendicular to the beach. Anybody who tired in the water, or who was being threatened by a rip current only had to go a few feet to grab onto one of the barrels or the ropes that were attached to them. Last year, in the midst of all the drowning incidents, we asked New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who was on the boardwalk for a press conference, about bringing back the ropes and barrels. At first, he was not sure what we were talking about. When we described the device to him, however, he said he did know about them, but was opposed to their use in Rockaway. “Why?” we asked. Benepe said that there were a number of reasons. First of all, nobody else used them anymore. Secondly, they were not very cost-effective because they had to be taken to shore every year for maintenance. And, thirdly, the ropes and barrels would “give swimmers a false sense of security,” allowing them to believe that they were safe in deeper water. All of those answers, we find, are disingenuous. Many locals of a certain age learned to swim by holding on to the ropes. When they got older, they often used the ropes and barrels as barriers in games of tag. They were an important safety net. In addition, lifeguards on catamarans patrolled the ocean where the ropes and barrels ended. We remember few drownings during that period. We certainly believe that the idea of utilizing the ropes and barrels is worth a trial run, particularly in the far eastern end of the peninsula where the strong currents come out of the East Rockaway inlet. After all, what is cost and bother when lives are at stake?

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I agree with the writer. It

I agree with the writer. It is interesting to note the current parks Commissioner had no knowledge of such aids. Does anyone look back on their job to see what might have been used and isnt today and perhaps question the wisdom of that answer? I grew up on 114th St for most of the summer and most kids that were living in those rooming houses came from the Bronx and upper Manhattan and learnt to swim in the Rockaways. I am certain these ropes were a big help in allowing a kid to grab onto when he was practicing his swim strokes. I also remember my grandmother going into the water with a lot of older people and using the ropes to steady their move into the deeper water. Yes they have to be removed and maintained but how much value do we put on one life. Bring back the barrels!!

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