As Heat Wave Hits NYC, Parks Department Won’t Extend Beach Hours
Nearly three dozen municipal pools will stay open an extra hour, but 6 p.m. remains the last whistle for city beaches.
As the city sizzles through the first heat wave of the season, with the heat index expected to hit triple digits this weekend, hours at municipal pools will be extended — but there will be no such luck for beachgoers.
Citing potential dangers to lifeguards, the city will not staff 14 miles of beaches in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and The Bronx past 6 p.m., even as 33 municipal pools will stay open until an extra hour until 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday.
It’s not clear how the city’s ongoing lifeguard shortage — there are 750 lifeguards, half of what the Department of Parks and Recreation aims for each summer — factored into the decision to not extend beach hours in seaside Queens and Brooklyn communities that often are not near public pools.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that pools and beaches at many state parks across the state will have extended swimming hours. At NYC’s state parks, sprinklers and misters will be added as well.
City officials pinned the decision on the well-being of lifeguards who are assigned to keep beachgoers safe while spending long hours baking in the sun.
Meghan Lalor, a Parks Department spokesperson, told THE CITY that longer shifts on the sand could limit the ability of lifeguards to do what’s needed.
“Their job is extremely susceptible to exhaustion and fatigue — even more so than pool lifeguards — and adding more hours to their regular shifts would put undue stress on them,” Lalor said.
During a 2019 heat wave, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio extended beach hours during a stretch of scorching weather. At the time, then-Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver initially said beaches couldn’t extend hours due to their cleaning schedule.
A spokesperson for the city’s emergency management office said it’s rare to extend beach hours, adding that people should stay indoors if they have air conditioning.
The spokesperson, Aries Dela Cruz, told THE CITY that reaching a beach may take longer than trekking to a local pool, extending exposure to the sun.
“We don’t necessarily want to incentivize that travel, as it outweighs any benefits to cooling off beachside,” De La Cruz said in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live within walking distance of beaches at Coney Island, Brighton Beach and along the entire Rockaway peninsula.
But, in some cases, public pools in those neighborhoods are not easily accessible.
The City Council has pushed this year to build more public pools, since 16 of the Council’s 51 districts are without one.
Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents parts of southeast Queens and Rockaway, said her concerns center on safety.
“Every year, we lose community members off the shores of the Rockaway peninsula,” Brooks-Powers said. “We must do everything we can to prevent drownings, and I encourage the Parks Department to focus on safety on our beaches as well as our pools.”
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