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Orchard Beach set to open for swimming amid lifeguard shortages as Memorial Day weekend nears

The city Parks Department is dealing with a lifeguard shortage, saying that so far, it has certified less than half the total number it needs to fully staff the beaches.

Greg Thompson

May 22, 2024, 9:21 PM

Updated 26 days ago

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New York City's public beaches, including Orchard Beach, are set to open for swimming starting on Saturday, with lifeguards on duty every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If Wednesday's crowd was any indication, residents seem ready, with Borough President Vanessa Gibson saying," we go through so much, we just want to have a chance to relax, relate, release, right and just lay on the beach and enjoy ourselves."
But just like last year, the city Parks Department is dealing with a lifeguard shortage, saying that so far, it has certified less than half the total number it needs to fully staff the beaches.
It says all city beaches will still be opening this weekend, but officials do say some sections will be closed off with red "no swimming" flags, indicating there is no lifeguard on duty in the area.
Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue says they have been preparing for this, telling News 12 "that's why so much of what we do through signage, through communication is to emphasize safety, and we also have our parks enforcement patrol officers, that are here and present on the beach and are out there reminding people only swim where the beach is open."
With the CDC listing drowning as the top cause of death for children between the ages of one and four, Gibson admits she is concerned.
"At any given time, it can happen," she says. "Any spaces where you have young people, we should be sending that same collective message around safety at our beaches."
But the residents who were out there Wednesday seemed less worried.
Morris Park's Tina Savignano asked, "Who's going to drown here? The water is so calm and easy-going, as long as the beach is open, we're in, Everybody is in the water anyway, we don't care about the lifeguards."
Other people, including Daisy Lopez from Morris Park, said they had other concerns.
Lopez says she remembers how the lifeguard staffing "was an issue last year, they closed off, and everybody was just squished in like sardines, which I didn't like."
The Parks Department says it currently has more recruits than it did at this point last year and has more training courses running. It has plans to keep adding lifeguards through July Fourth weekend.


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