Parks Put  On Notice

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Dear Editor:

On May 21, 2020 the Rockaway Beach Civic Association Executive Board sent the attached letter to NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh in advance of the coming beach season. Our intention was to begin an ongoing dialogue about keeping our beaches safe in preparation for the warmer weather and increased beach attendance prior to regular lifeguard and PEP staffing in the Rockaways, especially pertaining to anticipated staffing delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we received a positive acknowledgement from Sen. Addabbo, to our amazed disappointment, we received NO response from NYC Parks. Not a peep. While disappointed, we were not shocked by their lack of response. This pattern of unresponsiveness by Parks is emblematic of how they deal with active, informed members of the community, seeking to offer input on best practices for keeping our ocean facing beaches safe for residents, visitors, and wildlife alike.

As residents, we are on these beaches every day and are keenly aware of the challenges the natural environment presents to those entrusted to manage it. We are not trying to tell people how to do their jobs but are offering reasonable suggestions for how to do them better and more efficiently.

Parks recently announced that the lifeguards and most PEP officers will be going off duty for the season at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 7. This is one week earlier than the lifeguards have gone off duty in past years, and several weeks earlier than PEP has gone off duty.

As the upcoming school year opening has been pushed back to Monday, September 21, this leaves two full weeks of unguarded beaches while the weather and water remain warm, and another month of unguarded beaches before the water is too uncomfortable to swim in.

This makes the contents of our May letter more pressing than ever. Parks has taken no responsibility to deal with the concerns of the community, especially as pertains to swim safety, and the possibility of exploring adaptive lifeguard approaches and strategies.

Our primary concern is that there be some effort made to patrol the beaches during the spring and fall while the weather is warm, ideally, by teams trained in water rescue and first aid. The numbers speak for themselves, when trained lifeguards are on duty, people don’t drown. We realize that going in the ocean brings an inherent amount of risk that can’t be eliminated. But it can be reduced through education of the public, and a willingness to look at solutions beyond the status quo. This concern remains as critical now as it was at the outset of our anticipated summer beach season. We hope that you might join us as we continue to advocate for common sense strategies, aimed at a dialogue with NYC Parks regarding expanded approaches to water safety and monitoring. 

For further details or discussion, please don’t hesitate to contact us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bridget Klapinski, President

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