NY Approves Lowering Lifeguard Age Requirement to 15 to Address Shortage

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has given the green light to a proposal that would lower the minimum age for certified lifeguards from 16 to 15 in order to help alleviate the shortage that has hampered the tri-state and the country thus far this summer.

The lifeguard shortage has forced New York City to eliminate a number of their swimming programs just ahead of the summer months, the city announced earlier in the week.

NYC Parks tweeted that a number of their swim programs at their outdoor pools are canceled this summer due to not having enough lifeguards.

"Due to the national lifeguard shortage, unfortunately we will not be hosting swim programs, including lap swim, senior swim, and Learn to Swim, at our outdoor pools this summer," the tweet read in part.

"I’m sure that was a hard decision. But a lot of us have reduced pool hours, programming because there isn’t enough lifeguards to cover all the shifts," said Mary O’Donoghue, the senior director for aquatics at YMCA of Greater New York.

O’Donoghue said the YMCA is trying to fill the void by offering lifeguards lessons for free. Unlike the city, they have enough to teach swim lessons — but even they need more, and are offering new lifeguards a signing bonus.

Mayor Eric Adams said that he’s now pushing his team to think outside the box, tossing out ideas like getting kids on swim teams to lifeguard.

"We are surrounded by water, I think our young people should get swimming lessons," Adams said. "We want to see if there is a creative way we can get it done."

The Long Island town of Hempstead is fully staffed on the beach and at pools, but the town supervisor is calling on the governor to lower the age of certification by a year.

"15-year-olds can monitor swimming pads and kiddie pools, they can redeploy older lifeguards to the pools," said Supervisor Don Clavin.

In a letter to Hochul, Clavin detailed how lowering the age could ease the shortages.

"We have 16-year-olds who are more mature than our 20-year-olds," said Justine Anderson, who trains all the lifeguards in Hempstead.

On Friday, Clavin got approval from the state to lower the certification age, as did all of Nassau and Suffolk counties. A state officials said that the two Long Island counties have different requirements for lifeguards than other regions of the state, due to their beaches requiring different lifeguarding skills.

A spokesperson for the governor said that "Hochul directed her team to explore different options to address lifeguard shortage issues in localities across the state."

Some parents were split on whether lowering the age was a good idea.

"Sixteen seems pretty good, I think 16 is a good age for that. They are more responsible, working seriously," said Camille Carby.

West Hempstead resident and EMT Paul Hurwitz was more in favor of the idea, saying "if they need lifeguards, why not start them younger."

Hempstead town officials believe the proposal will work because they already have a junior lifeguard program, the graduates of which have been successful.

A string of recent drownings in the area have highlighted the importance of swimming safety.

Two swimmers drowned in separate incidents at Rockaway Beach Friday evening, according to police. A 16-year-old girl was pulled from the water by civilians near Beach 108th Street at the popular Queens swimming spot, according to police. Around that same time, a young man — possibly another teenager — was taken from the water near Beach 98th Street, police said.

On June 10, Ryan Wong and Daniel Persaud were with a group of friends when the two fell into the water and were swept away. The two were pulled into the rough currents, which a nearby sign warns of along with sudden drop-offs, and their bodies were later found in the water. Those who frequent the beach say that not many people swim there, and it's more popular with fishermen and kite surfers.

The race to save two swimmers pulled from the waters off the Rockaways Friday ended in tragedy, the latest in a string of drownings across the tri-state.NBC New York's Checkey Beckford reports.

A 2-year-old on Long Island was pulled from the water of a backyard pool in another drowning scare Tuesday. The boy, whose relatives own the home where the pool is located, was not breathing and was taken to the hospital, but his parents are hopeful the child will recover.

Last month, another 2-year-old boy drowned in a backyard pool in Rockland County when the tri-state area was experiencing an unseasonably warm temperatures.

Drowning deaths are not just limited to New York. Various drownings have occurred in neighboring New Jersey over the past couple of weeks -- both in pools and open water.

Two people drowned at a New Jersey lake Tuesday evening. Morris County officials said that EMS personnel were in the parking at Mine Hill Beach along Green Road after 5 p.m., when a group told them that two people went into the water at the sand pits and never came out.

The EMS contacted other first responders from the area, and immediately conducted a search, which came up empty for the 17-year-old and 20-year-old who disappeared, officials said.

Their bodies were recovered hours later.

Two young men drowned in Sunset Lake in Mine Hill. Pat Battle reports.

In another tragedy, two brothers drowned at a school's indoor pool in Bayonne last week.

The school pool is open at night for community use, according to a city official, who said a lifeguard was on duty at the time of the incident. Their 11-year-old sister saw it happen, the official said.

The dive pool was closed and lifeguards were watching just the main pool — where everyone who was at the community swim event was supposed to be.

The two teen brothers, 16-year-old Jack Jiang and 19-year-old Chu Ming Zheng, drowned in that side dive pool, the school board official said. However, it was not immediately clear how the pair ended up in that pool.

Three lifeguards were on duty at the pool, police said, as questions swirl about how the tragic incident involving the brothers could have occurred. NBC New York's Brian Thompson reports.
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