2013-10-11 / Letters

Lifeguard Schedule Needs A Fix

Dear Editor:

I would like to address an issue that is of concern to all residents of Rockaway, one that has somehow fallen silent in all the tumult of post-Sandy recovery: ocean access on our beaches. Of course, our first priority is to get a boardwalk built. Once that happens, however, the issue of when beaches are open will return.

Like many Rockaway people, I work in Manhattan. In my case, it is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the same would hold true for someone commuting to a traditional 9 to 5 job. After you factor in a two-hour plus commute, there is no way for us to legally go to the beach for a swim before or after work during the week.

Limited lifeguard and beach hours mean I can’t take a dip legally. Were lifeguard work calls to be staggered to alternating 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts, with correspondent closures of alternating beach sections, beach goers could enjoy an early morning or after work dip.

It is certainly an idea worth consideration. We have already gotten used to beach closures for sand pumping, beach repair, lifeguard shack installation, etc. After living with closed beaches all summer, I don’t think that having a few blocks of beach closed so that adjacent sections can be open later would be an inconvenience at all. During heat waves, municipal pools are kept open longer. Why not the beach?

As many know, presently every single municipal labor agreement has expired, and some agreements have been expired for years. Workers have in some instances gone years without a raise during the Bloomberg era’s mantra of “Do more with less.” The future mayor will have the awesome responsibility to negotiate agreements with hundreds of thousands of hard-working municipal employees. Many issues will have to be addressed, including wages, health coverage, pensions, and work rules. I certainly hope that fair and responsible agreements are reached, that both sides give and gain and that the hardworking people who make this city run- the backbone of the dwindling middle class of NYC- are treated fairly and responsibly.

I think that workers deserve a raise. I also think that they should be willing to trade, and that raises should reflect the values and savings contained in that trade. That is the essence of bargaining.

In an era when firefighters, sanitation workers, police and teachers can go years without a contract or a raise, when teachers’ review scores are published, when trains run with one man, when school buses don’t run because the mayor wants to bid out service contracts and reduce job security, when firehouses are threatened with closure every year, and when police are vilified, certainly a small DC 37 union comprised of mostly part time workers should not be in a position to be intransigent in response to municipal demands for more flexible scheduled hours.

That is, of course, if the city is willing to ask for them. The councilmen and women serving on the Parks and Labor Committees should be aware of this issue. Many, I’m sure, will not know a thing about Rockaway or its unique concerns, and it is incumbent on us to make our voice heard once the committees are established and bargaining begins.

The beach is a treasure, and we appreciate it more now than ever after Sandy. Is it asking too much to have it open 10 hours a day?


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