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Astoria Park Pool
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Young Sok YunAstoria Park Pool

NYC says to expect partial pool closures this summer

Empty lifeguard chairs might be a frequent sight.

Written by
Christina Izzo

Every year, the best public pools in NYCfrom Crotona to Kosciuszko—are set to open for the season in June, joining the city's top beaches, which officially opened during Memorial Day Weekend, as necessary havens from New York's sweltering summer heat. But many of those pools may experience reduced hours this summer, due to a growing shortage on lifeguards.

Per The New York Times, New York Parks Department officials report that they have fewer than 500 lifeguards available to patrol local swimming pools and beaches, 480 total to be exact (280 returning lifeguards and another 200 new recruits), one-third of the number they would need to staff the city's pools and beaches full-time.

"In order to open all beaches and pools we need about 1,400," Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue announced during the city council's parks committee meeting on Monday, May 22. "If we don't get to a number of around 800 or 900, we would open for one shift of our pools and beaches, so like 11-7," a.k.a. reduced operating hours and limited access to those pools and beaches. 

Already, some pools will be closed for the season because of renovations, including Astoria pool (pictured above).

Last summer, the city had a workforce of 529 guards by late June and certified another 300-plus pool and beach attendants by early July ahead of the ever-busy Fourth of July Weekend. Even those 900 lifeguards of the 2022 summer season is down significantly from years' past, which saw 1,000 guards in 2021 and 1,500 back in 2016. 

“We’re doing all that we can to recruit and train as many lifeguards as possible,” Donoghue said at the meeting. “We are clearly still facing a very challenging hiring environment.” The city has adopted incentives like increased pay and retention bonuses, as well as free swimming lessons and boosted advertising as schools and job fairs. The plan is to onboard new lifeguards in a rolling recruitment to hit target by Independence Day. 

The current shortage on water safety personnel in New York City is reportedly tied to a notoriously difficult qualifying test and contract negotiations between city officials and local lifeguard unions, but it's part of a larger, nationwide dearth, said to be tied to pandemic-related difficulties, including staff vacancies and lack of training opportunities. 

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