Parks limits swimming sections in Brooklyn beaches due to lifeguard shortage

brooklyn lifeguard stand
Swimming will be limited on some sections of Brooklyn beaches this summer thanks to the ongoing lifeguard shortage.
File photo by Erica Price

Brooklyn beaches opened over the weekend with standard hours, but locals should expect limited swimming sections this summer due to a low number of lifeguard recruits.

A parks department spokesperson said beaches will keep their normal operating hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but will open sections for swimming based on a daily staffing headcount. Closed sections will be marked with signs and red flags. 

According to the parks department, fewer lifeguards returned to their posts after the pandemic, and an even lower number of new recruits have signed up for the role. 

“NYC Parks has been working since September 2022 to rebuild our lifeguard ranks, which were severely impacted by losses from the pandemic and reflected in the national lifeguard shortage last summer,” the spokesperson said.  

coney island beach lifeguard shortage
Brooklyn beachgoers should look out for flags and signs marking closed sections this summer.File Photo by Erica Price

They are still struggling to hire enough water monitors even after offering new employee perks, the rep continued, including pay raises — first and second-year lifeguards now make $21 per hour

According to Council Member Ari Kagan, NYC Parks Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher said the department currently has slightly fewer guards than they did this time last year, however no exact numbers were given. 

Local news outlet The City reported there are only 480 guards ready to go this summer, a far cry from the 1,400 needed to cover the city’s beaches and pools.

“It’s an ongoing issue but the explanation is all this is a nationwide crisis,” Kagan told Brooklyn Paper. [NYC Parks] did raise the salary but it’s still not enough, it’s not a salary.”

Maher said more guards are currently receiving training or getting recertified so they do expect to have more guards after July 4th.

 Lifeguard training includes a 16-week program with 40 hours of practical training, a CPR course and multiple swimming tests. NYC Parks typically begins recruiting in the winter to ensure they will have enough workers by the time the beaches open on Memorial Day weekend. 

Lucy Mujica Diaz, chairperson for community board 13, says the group will continue advocating for the community’s safety and propose offering an even higher salary to get more people to apply for the position.

“It’s quite disturbing that this is the same response every year,” Diaz told Brooklyn Paper. “Our district needs to advocate more funding towards the employment of lifeguards but according to them it’s not a budget issue, no one is applying. They need to increase the salaries again even from the small increase they started guards with this year.”

lifeguard on brooklyn beaches
Even with proposed salary raises, a low number of lifeguards have returned to their posts compared to pre-pandemic numbers.File photo by Todd Maisel

As the department works to solve the shortage, they implore New Yorkers to only swim in open sections and when guards are on duty. 

New York state saw similar monitor deficits last summer which led to public concern and the drowning of an 84-year old man who died after swimming in unguarded waters. 

Parks will amp up enforcement patrols this year in order to educate beachgoers of the dangers of going into the water when a lifeguard is not on duty.