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?