New York City has reached a deal to raise starting wages for lifeguards to $19.46 an hour and develop a training program to fully staff the five boroughs' 17 mini pools, most of which sat empty of people but full of water over the holiday weekend.
Mayor Eric Adams announced the deal with the lifeguard union represented by District Council 37 on Tuesday. Under the terms of the agreement, the city will create a class of lifeguards who will be restricted to mini pools, which are the smaller pools that usually are relegated to playground areas, sometimes near schools, across the five boroughs.
The Democrat says the influx of dedicated mini pool lifeguards will allow the city to "very quickly open" all of them, which he said will provide some essential cooling relief for New Yorkers over the summer. Adams also said that for this summer only, the starting lifeguard hourly pay would be raised to $19.46. And lifeguards who work every week through the end of the summer season will get a retention bonus in September.
The city will also collaborate on public safety to keep swimmers off closed sections of beaches and develop complementary measures to keep New Yorkers safe.
"Every New Yorker deserves to safely enjoy our city’s public pools and beaches this summer and my team has taken extraordinary measures to make that happen," Adams said in a statement Tuesday. "Today we reached a deal with the lifeguard union to address the immediate needs of our pools."
"While these changes are a step in the right direction, our ability to safely open beaches and pools has been impacted by a national lifeguard shortage and has also been held back by inefficient practices that are in dire need of further reform," he added. "We will continue to work closely to correct course on policies that don’t serve New Yorkers and pool resources from all agencies to ensure a fun and safe summer."
Most New York City mini pools languished empty over the holiday weekend. Others opened but for fewer hours. As of last week, the city had about 720 lifeguards staffed, up from about 500 a month ago. But that was half the number needed to fully staff all of its public pools and beaches.
The hope is that raising hourly wages for those workers will bring in recruits. In the meantime, most of the 51 outdoor pools are open, but some have limitations.