NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A beach community in Queens is crying out to the city for help after seeing an alarming number of drownings this summer.
Residents in Arverne want to see the parks department increase beach patrols after hours, but say they’re not getting anywhere.
The jetty at Beach 61st Street is where the body of 18-year-old John Munoz washed up two weeks ago after he and a friend went in the water after 6 p.m. – when lifeguards leave.
“They rescued one they couldn’t rescue another – we lost another life it’s not right,” community board member Chris Tedesco said.
Along the Rockaway peninsula residents say there’s been four drownings this summer and around a dozen over the last five years.
“Usually we think action happens once there’s a death, we had a death, when are we going to get action?”
But all of this year’s drownings have happened at night.
“We’re asking the city to extend lifeguard hours to eight, maybe 9 o’clock. Our concessions go until 10, people are here on the beach, why can’t the lifeguards stay later,” Lisa George, president of Heart of Rockaway Civic Association said.
CBS2 asked New York City’s parks commissioner Mitchell Silver that very question.
“To be there for extended hours adds a lot of stress to lifeguards who are literally watching the water every second and so patrols we’re gonna explore to see what we can do,” Silver said.
“We spend a lot of time communicating the message not to go into the water when lifeguards weren’t on duty, and we even added new signs this week.”
Small red signs that say “danger drowning risk” is what residents say was put in a few days ago and they say it is not nearly enough.
“The same way we’re pushing bicycle safety we can push swim safety you can do it cut waste in city government and you can find the money,” Edwin Williams from Heart of Rockaway said.
“This should be a place you enjoy not drown.”
Even on sunny days you can see beachgoers swimming in unsupervised territory.
Councilman Donovan Richards met with parks, police, and community leaders Tuesday. He says the Rockaways are expected to break last year’s record of 10 million visitors.
He says more deterrents are needed for after-hours swimming.
“Perhaps some sort of violation being given could save a life,” Donovan Richards said.
He says he’ll meet with the commissioner in the coming weeks. Councilman Richards added he’s working with the education committee to incorporate water safety information into the public schools curriculum. That idea would need state approval.