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Monday’s Headlines: It’s Labor Day Edition

It's Labor Day, so in honor of all the laborers who toil here at Streetsblog, we're taking the day off. But not before we give you a story about public pools.

We’re taking the day off. We hope you can, too.

It's Labor Day, so in honor of all the laborers who toil here at Streetsblog, we're taking the day off. But not before we mention that today would be a great day to visit a New York City public pool — would be, that is, if the pools were at full capacity.

Other outlets have written extensively about the lifeguard shortage, with the Times doing the definitive story earlier this summer, the City after that, and Gothamist following up a couple of weeks ago.

But when I arrived at the Sunset Park pool on a summer Sunday — a holiday Sunday, that is, when normal New Yorkers need the pool the most — I was angry to see three-quarters of it was off limits due to a lack of lifeguards.

Now, in fairness to the Adams administration, the city did increase lifeguard pay and offer signing bonuses, but still, there are shortages. And the buck stops with City Hall, so I texted the mayor (what, you don't have his phone number? I'm pretty sure everyone does).

I sent him this picture:

All of the pool in the foreground was closed on Sunday. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

And texted, "Hey Mayor. It’s Gersh. The Sunset Park pool is 3/4 closed because of not enough lifeguards. People are a little angry. Just thought you should know."

The mayor responded, "Thanks. They should turn their anger into a recruitment effort. We have a shortage of life guards. Not going to open pools without them. Some pools are closed all together. At least this is open. Encourage them to get people to become life guards."

I thought the mayor was a bit testy, so I texted back that "I was just trying to help," and he responded, "I took it that way. What I was sharing is to encourage people to become life guards. I like empowering people to know they can impact change and not just complain."

OK, fair enough, but to me, "empowering people" is a bit of a blowoff, given that public pools are a public responsibility that falls pretty squarely on the Parks Department and its labor negotiators. There were a lot of New Yorkers spending the vacation in New York this weekend, and it's not too much to ask that their local pool has ample space.

And where is Comptroller Brad Lander in all of this? The Times story from earlier this summer said that the lifeguard "union" has been investigated over the years by the comptroller's office and the city’s Department of Investigation, which found "dysfunction." (What union doesn't want more members?)

But the problem persists. Sounds like a job for the city's bean-counter.

The city's outdoor pools remain open through Sunday, Sept. 10.

We'll be back with normal headlines tomorrow. Enjoy the day off.

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