By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
City Lifeguards in Local 461 and their Supervisors in Local 508 are credited for achieving an outstanding public safety record as they complete their fourth consecutive season with no fatalities or drownings at public pools and beaches while Lifeguards were on duty.
“These first responders protect millions of residents and tourists who visit New York City’s beaches and pools daily during the summer,” said Local 508 President Peter Stein.
The locals’ record is especially impressive when considering on average, 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control names it the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury or death.
“As first responders Lifeguards, most of whom are still in their teens when hired, have a tremendous responsibility beyond their years,” Stein said. “Most kids’ first jobs are in fast food or the mall. These young people have the weighty task to safeguard human life.”
Each season the Dept. of Parks and Recreation employs about 1,500 state certified City Lifeguards who work 48 hours a week. The season begins Memorial Day weekend. For the last few years, the city has extended the season one week past Labor Day.
“Parks hires the best of the best for this job — fast, strong swimmers — and entrusts them with protecting and saving lives,” said Local 461 President Franklyn Paige. Lifeguard trainees are at least 16 years old with good eyesight. “They are committed to public service and are confident in their swimming and rescue abilities,” he added.
The Lifeguard locals’ longstanding rescue record includes:
City Lifeguards Sharon Greaves and Andrey Povronik revived a drowning elderly man at Manhattan Beach in 2016.
City Lifeguards Brianna Minogue and Inez Zuska saved a drowning man after he collapsed in five feet of water at Brighton Beach in 2013.
Lifeguard Supervisors in Local 508 train candidates at the Municipal Lifeguard Training Program in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), First–Aid and rescue techniques and teach them to read water currents, riptides, and more. They supervise Parks’ grueling swim test.
Aquatic experts estimate that just two to seven percent of Americans are good swimmers. The Parks Dept. turns away hundreds of applicants who fail to meet its rigorous standards.
Additionally, Locals 461 and 508 are renowned for their union solidarity: 100 percent of Locals 461 and 508 are card-carrying union members. Hundreds regularly volunteer in the Green Machine’s get-out-the-vote effort during primaries and elections and support AFSCME through regular contributions to PEOPLE, the international union’s political fund.
“I’m so proud of all we have accomplished over these past years keeping Parks recreation facilities, its 14 miles of public beaches and 56 outdoor pools safe for everyone to enjoy,” said Stein.
This originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.