Lifeguards were attacked last night at McCarren Park Pool, one day after it's opening. Additional security is also being brought in A Walk In The Park has learned to provide 24/7 coverage as people have already been observed sneaking into the pool after hours. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
By Geoffrey Croft
Just a day after the opening of the $ 50 million McCarren Park Pool complex in Brooklyn the facility had to be closed early due to violence after lifeguards were attacked by a group of teens.
A Parks Department City Seasonal Aid (CSA) employee providing security on the pool deck at McCarren Park Pool. Critics say the city has a fraction of the PEP officers needed to protect the public and relies too heavily on non-peace officer status personnel who receive little training to provide essential safety services in our park system, including public pools. The security personnel, including JTP's, have no enforcement authority including arrest powers, they can issue no summonses, and receive as little as one day of training.
One lifeguard sustained a cut to his mouth after he was punched in the face. He was treated at the scene. The melee began when a group of kids refused to listen when they were instructed to stop doing back-flips into the pool.
A fight broke out and the teens attacked the lifeguards just after 6:00 pm. NYPD responded but no arrests were made.
“Lifeguards at McCarren Pool were attacked by an unruly crowd, and the pool had to close to restore order, ” Parks Department spokeswoman said.
A City source said a pool security/safety plan developed in concert with NYPD and the Parks Department had still not been finalized for McCarren Pool. Critics hoped that will change after yesterday's incident.
The lack of Park Enforcemnt Patrol (PEP) officers was also strongly criticized.
"We don't have enough bodies," said a PEP officer who did not want their name used for fear of retaliation.
"We don't have the coverage. They have some nerve. Now they're scrambling as usual. The City Council has to wake up. PD is also down bodies."
Local 983 vice-president Joe Puleo said the city was continuing to put the public at risk by not having enough PEP officers and relying on untrained, non-peace officer status CSA's and Job Training Participants (JTP) as security personnel.
"They are are putting CSA's and JTP's out there as an illusion of security," Mr. Puleo said. "
They have no authority they can't even write a summonses. They can't do anything. How many more incidents have to occur until the city takes action."
The city had assigned two PEP Sergeants and 9 seasonals to the pool. This is unusually high compared to the city's other Olympic-sized pools where 1 Sgt. and 3 seasonals are generally deployed from the city's depleted ranks.
NYPD and Auxiliary officers outside the Pool on opening day.
"The Police and PEP need to be out on the pool deck," said a lifeguard.
"Lifeguards are supposed to be watching the pools not breaking up fights. We are not police or PEP. We are supposed to ensuring the safety of swimmers not being attacked. What are (JTP's) supposed to do hit them with their food stamps. They are nice people but the city is putting us - not to mention them - at risk.
As reported by A Walk In The Park, last Summer saw a rash of pool related incidents. including a number in which lifeguards were involved.
"If you don't set the tone in these places you will lose control," said a lifeguard today.
The lack of PEP has left the rest of the park system severely understaffed as well. The entire borough of Brooklyn for instance has just two PEP officers available to patrol more than 4, 300 acres of acres of park land.
Installing a camera overlooking the pool on opening day.
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