Boro Prez Richards Calls for Swim Safety Measures

 Boro Prez Richards Calls for Swim Safety Measures

Following the drownings of teenagers Elyjha Chandler and Christian Perkins off of Riis Park, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a press conference on Tuesday, July 2, to call for more to be done to prevent more drownings in the future.

For Richards, preventing drownings is personal. “I’ve lost a relative to drowning, and I wouldn’t wish the pain of my family or the families of Elyjha Chandler and Christian Perkins on anyone,” he said following the conference held on the boardwalk at Beach 94th Street. He was joined by Community Board 14 Chair Dolores Orr and District Manager Felicia Johnson, as well as Shawn Shevlin of the Swim Strong Foundation, Out Rockaway Executive Director Jim Burke and others.

Richards offered several suggestions for what can be done to prevent more tragedies in our waters.  Among them are:

“Extend the time lifeguards are on duty until at least 7 p.m. During heat waves like the one we experienced when Christian and Elyjha were swimming, people stay at the beach longer. So should our lifeguards.”

“Extend the beach season beyond early September. Our summers are only getting longer and hotter as climate change creeps in.

“Build more community pools, which is what my office is working on doing in locations across Rockaway.

“Open existing pools within schools for community swim all summer long, giving families with young kids a safer place to swim.

“Invest in groups like the Swim Strong Foundation and help more kids learn to swim right in their own communities.

“Both the city and the lifeguard’s union must come to the table and negotiate a way to scale up the number of lifeguards our city can hire. We’re an oceanfront city of nine million people, so under no circumstances should we have a lifeguard shortage.

“Lastly, it’s on us to keep ourselves safe at the end of the day. If you’re at the beach and there isn’t a lifeguard on duty, DO NOT SWIM. The ocean is NOT a pool. Even on sunny and calm days, those rip currents can sweep even the best swimmers away in second.”

“No family should ever feel the pain of losing a loved one to drowning. In honor of Christian and Elyjha, let’s all commit to staying safe at the shore this summer,” Richards said.

Just three days later, two teenage sisters drowned in Coney Island on the night of Friday, July 5, reiterating the importance of Richards’ suggestions.


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