NYC lifeguards will get another pay boost this summer, to $22 an hour

NYC lifeguards will get another pay boost this summer, to $22 an hour

New York City’s seasonal lifeguards will get a raise when pools and beaches open this summer, the parks department said Wednesday. The move comes after staffing shortages roped off large sections of city pools and left some beach areas unsupervised last year.

Lifeguards can expect to earn $22 an hour during this year’s swimming season, according to new contract terms that parks officials unveiled alongside the local lifeguards union, which is part of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union.

The raise follows one last season that brought lifeguard starting wages from roughly $19 to $21 an hour amid a worsening lifeguard shortage that threatened public safety at beaches and pools.

DC 37’s Executive Director Henry Garrido said it was crucial for the union to push for a $22 hourly wage for seasonal workers to attract talent, in light of a similar increase offered by the state at New York-owned properties.

“We were competing with McDonald’s and Whole Foods and other places that were paying significantly more,” he said in an interview. “There were a lot of lifeguards in New York City that were going to state facilities operating in New York City. So matching that $22 an hour was really important.”

Returning lifeguards and chief lifeguards who work at least four days a week on average through peak season — July 14 to Aug. 25 — will receive a $1,000 bonus as part of the deal.

The city’s lifeguard shortage came to a head in summer 2022, coinciding with a nationwide scarcity of lifeguards that was on display at highly trafficked local beaches. Mayor Eric Adams temporarily boosted wages that summer to $19 an hour, which the city later made permanent. The city has continued to build on it following criticism that Adams had not initially done enough to reverse the shortage.

Gothamist reported last summer that more pool lanes were being closed off and more swimming programs were being canceled amid the lifeguard shortage.

Local news outlet The City found that the shortage even extended into the higher ranks, as lifeguard shacks on Rockaway Beach faced a dearth of supervisors.

While officials hope the new wages will attract more lifeguards to the city’s pools and beaches, some lifeguards say they and their peers should receive even higher pay.

“The rank-and-file lifeguards deserve more,” said Janet Fash, a chief lifeguard who was stationed at Rockaway Beach for 43 years before being assigned to a local pool. “We’re top heavy. There’s a lot of superchiefs that get paid really good money, but the rank-and-file lifeguards, particularly in the ocean, deserve more.”

Garrido didn’t reject that assessment, but said determining public lifeguard pay was more complicated.

“They deserve way more than what they’re getting,” he said. “But it’s a balance between [that and] what we can afford.”

Qualifying exams for new lifeguards began in December and are taking place at more than a dozen of the city’s pools. Parks officials are urging people who previously worked as city lifeguards to apply for recertification.

The city’s beaches will open for swimming on May 25, during Memorial Day weekend, according to the parks department.

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