NYC swim programs cut amid ‘lifeguard shortage’, outcry splashes

NEW YORK CITY — Swim programs will likely disappear from New York City pools this summer, officials said.

A “shortage of national lifeguards” prompted city park officials to cancel swimming programs, including lap swimming, senior swimming and Learn to Swim, at outdoor pools, they announced in a Tuesday tweet.

The decision caused a stir among New Yorkers, especially since these pools are vital for underserved communities on hot summer days and help young people learn to swim.

“We are surrounded by water! tweeted @Veronica_iLse. “I know it’s expensive, but what’s more important than teaching kids how to survive in water they’re sure to end up swimming in.”

Mayor Eric Adams, during a Wednesday appearance on NY1, agreed and noted that two 13-year-old boys in Queens died last week after falling in Jamaica Bay.

He said he would speak to Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue about finding a “creative” way to bring swimming instruction back.

“We have to teach young people to swim,” he said.

But Adams also noted a “major problem” across the country with shortages of lifeguards.

The shortage can largely be attributed to the combined effects of the current low unemployment rate and two years of COVID-19 restrictions that have reduced training for lifeguards, The New York Times reported.

New York City, however, has specific problems.

The lifeguards division has been beset by decades of systemic mismanagement and dysfunction, a scathing report released in December by the city’s investigative agency revealed.

And there have been hints for months that a potential lifeguard shortage could affect swimming programs this summer.

An adult knee swim cut was first reported by Hell Gate in May, for example.

When New Yorkers learned of the cuts to the swim program this week, they weren’t happy.

“This narrative is a diversion from admitting that the city, again, has not been proactive,” tweeted @ErasmaTambora.

“‘Shortage of national lifeguards’ is a funny way of saying ‘criminally mismanaged municipal budgets'” tweeted @see_dub.

“Everything is a compromise. They may miss free swimming lessons, but they will have the possibility of drowning,” tweeted @AndyJBoyd.

Despite likely cuts to swimming schedules, outdoor pools will remain open this summer for general swimming daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., officials said.

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