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NYC beaches set to open despite lifeguard shortage. Here's how officials say you can stay safe.

NYC beaches set to reopen amid lifeguard shortage
NYC beaches set to reopen amid lifeguard shortage 01:53

NEW YORK - New York City is set to open its beaches this Memorial Day Weekend despite the continuing lifeguard shortage

Saturday, all city-run beaches, spanning 14 miles, will be open to the public, free of charge. 

During a kickoff event Tuesday, city leaders issued plenty of warnings: As you take in the sun, use caution. The Parks Department said it will only have 230 beach lifeguards on staff - the same amount as last year - but 600 are needed to fully staff beaches. Because of the shortage, Parks officials say sections of city-run pools will be closed off too, once they open in June. 

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

Even though the surf may be up, the number of lifeguards needed to staff beaches is still down. The city's lifeguard shortage is continuing as we head into the summer. 

"We will have lifeguards stationed at as many areas as we can. Where we don't have lifeguards, we put up red flags," New York City Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. 

Lifeguard shortage a national problem

With the small number of lifeguards, large sections of beaches will likely be closed to swimmers, Donoghue said. 

"We are dealing with a national lifeguard shortage still and a real challenging hiring environment," she said. "We have done all that we can since last year to really recruit as much lifeguards as possible."

Donoghue said they have more recruits training, which should start before July 4. 

The waiting game isn't sitting easy with Veronica Costa, a lifelong Rockaway Beach resident. 

"Last year, a lot of the beaches were closed and when you come to the beach, you want to swim," Costa said. 

"I love Rockaway. All summer I am coming," Little Neck resident Charlie Gruber said. 

"Best time of the year down here," Rockaway resident Thomas Sullivan said. 

Starting Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. until the Sunday after Labor Day.   

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