Lifeguard shortages, surprise closures disrupt NYC pools’ opening day: ‘Summer’s going to be brutal’

Lifeguard shortages, surprise closures disrupt NYC pools' opening day: 'Summer's going to be brutal'

At Williamsburg’s McCarren Park, more than half of the pool was closed off, leading to lengthy lines and confusion. A lifeguard – who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record – said the city had deployed half as many lifeguards to the pool as normal.

Outside the gates, Samantha Nieves said she had been waiting more than two hours with her 6-year-old son. This was the pair’s second swimming attempt of the day, she said, after they arrived at the Bushwick Pool to find it was closed.

“Summer’s going to be brutal,” Nieves said.

None of the changes were immediately reflected on the city’s website, which states that all pools are open for general swim. A spokesperson for the Parks Department, Crystal Howard, said the agency would “adjust our pool operations daily based on lifeguard headcounts, and only open them where we have adequate lifeguard coverage to keep swimmers safe.”

But the Parks Department has also warned repeatedly about the shortage of lifeguards this year, which they said could prompt closures or shortened hours in the coming weeks. As of two weeks ago, the city had hired fewer than 500 lifeguards, officials said, roughly helped as many as previous years.

Efforts to properly staff city beaches and public pools has meant sacrificing a range of other popular programs. Earlier this month, the city announced the cancellation of free swim lessons and dedicated adult lap swim at its outdoor public pools.

Beginning this week, the Parks Department has also slashed swimming hours at its recreation centers – city-run facilities that offer a range of fitness activities in exchange for a low-cost membership – according to multiple people Gothamist spoke to Tuesday.

At the Chelsea Recreation Center, a sign greeted visitors informing them that pools were closed “until further notice.” In Southeast Queens, the Roy Wilkins Center ended its morning lap session, according to an employee at the site. In Williamsburg, swimmers arrived on Monday night to find the pool’s previous 8 pm closure had been moved up to 4 pm

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