Charges that the Bloomberg administration has enforcement agents ticketing residents and businesses to increase the city’s bottom line surfaced again last week after Parks Department police (PEP) ticketed several elderly women for bathing in shallow waters off Brighton Beach at about 6:45 p.m.
The incident, first reported on the website Gothamist, alleged that the PEP also made remarks about the women, Russian immigrants, being illegal in this country. The tickets come with a steep $250 fine.
Parks Department spokesperson Philip Abramson noted that city beaches are only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. when lifeguards are on duty. He said that signs are posted throughout the Parks Department’s 14 miles of beaches to alert the public of the hours.
“The ladies at Brighton Beach were indeed warned to get out of the water. It was only after refusing to heed the warnings that staff called our Parks Enforcement Patrol for assistance,” said Abramson. “NY State Law does not allow ‘swim at your own risk’ and given the drowning that have happened this summer during off-hours, we must be vigilant in enforcing the law.”
Abramson said that if constituents believe that PEP officers used inappropriate language, they are encouraged to file a claim with the Parks Advocate office.
Coney Island activist Ida Sanoff noted that while the Parks Department has strong enforcement of swimmers in the waters after hours, those with surfboards are allowed in the water at any time of day or night.
“While there is certainly a need for public safety, there’s quite a contradiction here. Immersing any part of your body in the water is considered swimming or bathing and it’s prohibited, but if you’re on a surfboard and fall off of it, you are immersed in water, but this is not swimming or bathing,” said Sanoff.
“It is too dangerous to swim if there is a hurricane offshore and you’re not allowed in the water, but under the exact same conditions, you can go in the water if you are holding a surfboard,” she added.
Abramson responded that New York State Law was changed in 2005 permitting surfing at your own risk. It takes place in designated areas year-round, and these areas are not staffed by lifeguards. New York City has two surfing beaches, both in the Rockaways, he said.
Brighton Beach Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Yelena Makhnin said the ticketing of elderly Russian women comes as the city’s traffic enforcement agents are blanketing the busy commercial district with tickets.
“This is ridiculous. Every year they [Parks Department] have some problems. One year they don’t have enough lifeguards, but they do have enough money to spend for special task force police to hand out tickets,” she said.
Makhnin said she doesn’t understand the Parks Department schedule for bathing in the ocean, especially during the hot month of August.
“If people live in the area and come from work at 5:45 or 6, why not go to beach for swim? It’s not dark yet,” she said.
The tickets came a week after gun-toting Sanitation Police blanketed New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst giving tickets to small shop owners for not posting signs in their shop designating recyclables.
These agents also went through the garbage in at least one pizzeria and gave the owner a ticket after finding a plastic bottle in it.
Mayor Bloomberg, at a recent sit-down with reporters and editors at this newspaper, denied that the tickets were part of a way to balance the city’s books, but did say some form of quota system is needed to make sure enforcement agents are doing their jobs.
Tickets being issued for swimming after hours in the Coney Island/Brighton Beach area have increased this year.
Abramson said 14 tickets have been issued for swimming after hours so far in 2009 as compared to nine tickets issued for the infraction at this time last year.