NYC Expected to Face Another Lifeguard Shortage This Summer

Pool programs may have to be cut and some ocean beaches won’t be able to open all sections as the lifeguard staffing level has tumbled from 1,500 pre-covid to only 900 last year. The NYC Parks Dept. is hoping that last year’s pay boost will attract more to the job this year.

| 28 Apr 2023 | 06:24

After low starting pay and other circumstances left the city at a loss for lifeguards last summer, it seems summer 2023 will see similar shortages at the city’s beaches and pools.

This past summer, a citywide lifeguard shortage forced NYC to eschew kids’ swimming lessons as well as early-morning, night owl and senior lap swim programs for summer 2022. Although the city requires 1,400 to 1,500 lifeguards to fully staff its pools, beaches and programs, they fell far short of that number last year.

“Last year, we had approximately 900 lifeguards, and it’s our goal to surpass that this year,” said a spokesperson for NYC Parks. They did not reveal how many so far have been hired for summer 2023.

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

“We are very proud that New York City was one of the only major U.S. cities to keep all our public pools and beaches open for free public use in 2022, and we expect the same result this summer.”

In an effort to find more qualified applicants, the city reached a deal with the lifeguard union to raise the pay rates for new and second-year seasonal lifeguards to approximately $21.26/hr. Additionally, lifeguards working through mid-August are eligible for a $1,000 bonus. Qualifying exams for new lifeguards were held starting in December 2022, and ended in March 2023.

However, as of now, not all of Manhattan’s 16 free outdoor pools are scheduled to open this summer (though not necessarily due to staffing shortages.)

The Tony Dapolito pool downtown at at Clarkson Street and Seventh Avenue South—which was closed last year for repairs—remains closed for summer 2023, according to the NYC Parks website. In addition, the pool at the Harlem Meer (at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue) is closed in order to rebuild the facility. Tompkins Square Pool will also be closed for summer 2023.

“Our public pools and beaches offer New Yorkers a safe place to get exercise, beat the heat, and make the most of their summers,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue.

“The wellbeing of our swimmers is our number one priority, and lifeguards are essential to creating safe environments that all New Yorkers can enjoy. As we continue to build our lifeguard corps, we’re committed to supporting these critical staff who put their own safety at risk to save lives and make summer happen for millions of New Yorkers.”