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NYC beaches will have lifeguards Memorial Day weekend. Here's how the city is managing the shortage.

All 14 miles of New York City public beaches now open to the public
All 14 miles of New York City public beaches now open to the public 02:00

NEW YORK -- New York City says all eight of its beaches will open Memorial Day weekend despite concerns about a shortage of lifeguards

On Friday, Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Parks Department announced changes to lifeguard certification requirements that will help keep beaches and pools staffed for the summer. 

NYC modifying lifeguard qualifications

An arbitration panel issued an award allowing the city to modify lifeguard qualifications going forward that will help add lifeguards, city officials said.

For example, lifeguard recruits who would be assigned to shallow pools (5 feet and under) no longer have to get timed while doing the 440-yard swim. They just have to complete a 300-yard swim, which is untimed.  

"The amount of time it took, yards to swim a certain distance, a number of yards just didn't make sense for these small kiddie pools," said Adams. 

Next year, vision requirements will be adjusted for would-be lifeguards on a tiered system. Larger pools and beaches will still have higher vision standards. 

Will NYC beaches be fully staffed? 

Questions remain over how much space will actually be open to swimming Memorial Day weekend. The Parks Department said it will adjust the available swimming space as needed, depending on daily staffing. 

"Do not swim without lifeguards on duty," Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said at an event earlier in the week. "Every year we lose precious members of our communities to drownings. We really urge you to be smart." 

The Parks Department said it started the 2023 season with 237 lifeguards and had 850 by July. Currently, there are 230 beach lifeguards on staff, but 600 are needed to be considered fully staffed. 

City officials said more than 300 recruits are currently in training and will add to the ranks as they get certified.

On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced New York will spend $5 million to hire lifeguards across the state. 

Best beaches in U.S.

Rockaway Beach and Coney Island Beach made Travel + Leisure's "25 Best Beaches in the USA" list.

The magazine called Rockaway Beach "heaven" for New Yorkers, who can "hop on a subway or bus to reach its white sand, 5-mile boardwalk, and surf-worthy waves." 

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