ROCKA-WAVES ARE #1 KILLER
Rockaway Beach – with its infamous riptide – is New York City’s deadliest beach. There have been at least nine drownings on the white-sand Queens peninsula since 1999, according to data compiled by The Post.
“The most challenging beach both for swimming and lifeguarding is Rockaway. It’s the real, true ocean beach in the city,” said Liam Kavanagh, the Parks Department first deputy commissioner in charge of beaches and pools.
“There’s rougher surf at Rockaway Beach and potential for more difficult currents. We have veteran lifeguards supervising there.”
In all, there have been about 30 swimmers who have drowned at the city’s 20 beaches and pools since 1999, according to the Health Department statistics and a review of news reports.
Officially, there had been only one drowning at Rockaway Beach since 1999, but that’s because the city doesn’t collect data on drowning when lifeguards are off duty, from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Drowning deaths in no-swim zones or at beaches out of city jurisdiction are also not tallied.
For example, 18-year-old Trevon Gidding, who drowned in July at Jacob Riis Park in Queens, was not included in city data because that beach is operated by the state.
And in Coney Island, there have been five drownings since 1999 – three during regular beach hours and two during off-hours.
Still, Parks Department and Health Department officials point out that New Yorkers made more than 20 million trips to beaches last year alone.
“Beaches are fun. It’s summer, hop in,” Kavanagh said. “Just remember the basics: Don’t swim alone, don’t exceed your limits in the water, follow the directions of lifeguards at all times, and the water and alcohol don’t mix.”
Also, beware of problems at privately operated pools, where the city has launched a crackdown on lifeguard violations.
The number of private pools cited for not having lifeguards on duty doubled last year over the year before, according to Health Department data.
Out of 646 private pools in the city, 84 were cited for not having lifeguards on duty in 2006, up from 42 in 2005.
“Pools get at least one annual inspection, sometimes more, depending on whether there are violations,” said Health Department spokeswoman Sarah Markt.
City-run pools didn’t fare much better when it came to lifeguard woes. Inspectors last year found 23 percent of them had violations.
There hasn’t been a drowning at a city-operated pool since 1999.