Hudson Valley lifeguards in high demand at the start of the 2021 season

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City and county park officials have rushed into 2021 to find lifeguards for this summer’s water season as they prepare to fully open their facilities this weekend.

It comes as teens and young adults assess summer employment opportunities, which could include pool side jobs in the Hudson Valley that pay up to $ 16 an hour to start.

For example, in Clarkstown, recruiting continues for up to 15 lifeguards to fill the schedule of the city’s three aquatic sites, with its Germonds Park and Congers Pool opening full-time on June 19 and Lake Nanuet Beach opening. the following weekend for the summer.

The hunt is on, with paid advertisements in local newspapers, awareness campaigns in local schools and signs posted around the city.

Clarkstown pays $ 14 an hour, which is higher than Rockland’s minimum wage of $ 12.50.

“It’s a real challenge this year,” said Elaine Apfelbaum, the city’s park and recreation superintendent, who has worked for Clarkstown for 40 years. “I had loads of applications. This year, I have exhausted all the applications for the book.

The problems faced by Apfelbaum in Clarkstown have been shared, to varying degrees, by park officials across the Hudson Valley. Westchester County was so short of lifeguards this year that it has lowered the eligibility age from one year to 15 and will pay first year lifeguards $ 16 an hour. That’s on par with what New York City will pay this year.

Last year’s COVID-19 restrictions complicated matters in 2021, which limited training opportunities and slowed the pipeline of new hires who would return this summer.

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Westchester Parks, which wants to have around 150 lifeguards for its four pools and beaches at Playland and Croton Point Park, still needs 25 more lifeguards to staff its aquatics program this summer, said Peter Tartaglia, the first deputy commissioner. county parks.

The search for Westchester lifeguards would be even more difficult, were it not for the 2021 closure of the Playland Park swimming pool, which is under construction, and the closure of the beach at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle as New York State retains the county park parking control. a lot for a COVID testing site.

“This is the first year that we are lowering the age to 15,” Tartaglia said. “We will train them with experienced guards, so that they learn the ropes and are not alone. There are a lot of children looking for work.

Rigorous training essential

On a blustery Thursday night near the Anthony F. Veteran Park Aquatic Complex in Greenburgh, Aquatics Director Greg du Sablon trained 13 lifeguards in lifesaving techniques for the upcoming season.

Du Sablon started rescuing 25 years ago at a private pool, then moved to Westchester County, where he worked at Srain Ridge, Croton Point Park and Willson’s Woods.

He was passionate about the pool deck, putting them through a multitude of training drills, urging them to stay focused and do whatever it takes to save a swimmer in need.

“It’s good Brady!” He said to a recruit trying to master a rescue using a float tube. “Put your head under the water and get through it!” “

When another recruit executed a save with finesse, du Sablon praised his success.

“It was so great,” he said. “It was so fluid.”

Novice lifeguards in Greenburgh are paid $ 14.50 an hour, slightly above Westchester’s $ 14 minimum wage.

Among those who refreshed their skills was Ajani Isles, 19, a student at SUNY Oswego, now in his fifth year at the Veteran Park pool.

“Everyone loves to go in the water when it’s hot,” Isles said. “And I want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Certification standards may differ from municipality to municipality. In New York, lifeguards must be at least 16 years old, able to swim 50 meters in 35 seconds and have at least 20/30 vision in one eye and 20/40 in the other, without corrective lenses.

In Westchester Parks, there is no vision requirement and recruits have up to 45 seconds to swim 50 meters. They must also swim 200 meters in less than 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

In Greenburgh, you must be able to retrieve a brick from the bottom of the deep end of the pool, 13.5 feet below the surface; and stand the water for two minutes.

Greenburgh also reduced the length of his untimed swim from 500 yards to 300 yards.

“We have become less focused on swimming really great, with the demands of time and long distances,” said du Sablon. “We follow what the Red Cross demands. “

Parks officials in the town of Carmel in Putnam County and the town of Ramapo in Rockland say they are ready for the summer.

In Ramapo, Michelle Antosca, director of parks and recreation, said the city appears to have a full list of its three water sites – Camp Scuffy and the Spook Rock and Saddle River pools. Training for his next season took place over the weekend of June 12. Ramapo pays $ 13 an hour at swimming pools.

“We’re still hesitant to have enough lifeguards, but we’re less panicked now than we were last week,” Antosca said. “But you never know. Someone might find another job that suits them better. You can never rest on your laurels, so we’re always looking.

The bottom line is that while the rescue may seem like an easy job, Antosca said it takes considerable focus and endurance to keep that focus in the heat of the day.

“It’s a big responsibility to be sitting in this chair,” she said. “You need to stay focused on all the people in and around the pool, without being distracted. ”

Follow David McKay Wilson on Facebook or Twitter @ davidmckaywils1.

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