Swimming

Some NYC Pools Sit Empty Without Lifeguards Heading Into Holiday Weekend

New York City has only half the lifeguards it needs to staff pools and beaches

NBC Universal, Inc.

Summer swimming could be going smoother for New York City, which is still short on lifeguards and forced to keep some pools closed or open fewer hours.

Countless New Yorkers were disappointed to arrive at a number of city pools on Friday only to find them closed due to lifeguard staffing shortages.

"The supervisor said they can't open due to no lifeguards. That's sad, it's 90 degrees today," Lilian Toscano said outside the Douglass and DeGraw Pool, where she came with kids planning to escape the day's heat.

The city's ranks has risen in recent weeks, up from around 500 one month ago to 720. That's still half of the number the city needs to fully staff its pools and beaches.

Raising hourly wages for those workers could bring in additional recruits, the city hopes. New York City wants to bump the starting pay for lifeguards from $16 to $19 per hour.

"We think if you raise wages now, right before the Fourth of July, it will attract new people," Henry Garrido, head of DC37, the union that represents the city's lifeguards.

Garrido hopes the pay proposal could be enough to turn the tide on staffing issues, but the city acknowledged it might take more to boost their numbers.

“We are in active negotiations with the lifeguard union to overcome outdated agreements that are preventing us from getting lifeguards into chairs regardless of the pay rate we offer. Given these hurdles pay rate increases alone will not substantially contribute to solving our current shortage," a city spokesperson said.

In the meantime, most of the 51 outdoor pools are open, but some have limitations. Over in Astoria, a shortage of lifeguards was keeping the pool at 50% capacity on Friday.

Families stuck in long lines to get into certain pools and frustrated to find their neighborhood location closed for the day hope the city can improve communication when staffing issues will impact the day.

City officials say in addition to pay increases, they hope waiving their double employment rule will help the shortage crisis. By dropping that rule, municipal employees already trained could work part-time as lifeguards.

Copyright NBC New York
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