New York City will raise starting wages for all lifeguards to $19.46 per hour for this summer only — a 22% pay raise — as part of an ongoing effort to address a lifeguard shortage that has resulted in full or partial closures at pools and beaches, City Hall announced on Wednesday.
New lifeguards had been receiving a $16 hourly wage. Lifeguards who work every week of the summer season will also receive a $1,000 retention bonus in September.
The temporary salary bump and incentive are part of a deal the city reached with the lifeguard union, which is represented by District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union.
“Every New Yorker deserves to safely enjoy our city’s public pools and beaches this summer and my team has taken extraordinary measures to make that happen,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
The temporary pay raise comes as city pools have struggled to open at full capacity or in some cases, at all. Many have criticized Adams for failing to raise the pay prior to the start of the season as problems of a national lifeguard shortage became apparent.
There are currently 778 lifeguards employed by the city’s parks department, roughly half of pre-pandemic levels.
As part of the new plan, the city will develop a training program to fully staff the city’s 17 mini pools, smaller and shallower pools that require less intense lifeguard skills. Some city residents had reported seeing such pools closed.
The city also plans to deploy teams from the New York City Office of Emergency Management, fire department and NYPD to keep swimmers away from closed sections on beaches.
“The most important result of this agreement is that visitors to the City’s pools and beaches this summer will be safe and protected by professional lifeguards who are properly trained to handle any water emergency,” said Henry Garrido, the union’s executive director.
According to Garrido, since 2014, there have not been any drownings in New York City where there was a union lifeguard on duty.