On September 14, 2023, the City Council voted to approve a bill that addresses a national spike in drownings. The bill, effective as of last month, requires all public pools and beaches to submit a lifeguard training and emergency report. Bill 1017-A, sponsored by Council Member Shekar Krishnan, will require the Parks Department to submit an annual report to the Mayor and City Council, detailing lifeguard staffing levels and training for the city’s pools and beaches, the number of emergencies that occurred at each beach and pool, as well as the number of pools that are closed for public use due to maintenance or other issues.
The bill attempts to curb last year’s national spike in the number of drownings, which is currently the leading death of children ages 1 to 4 in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“After a summer of extreme heat and wildfire smoke, crowded pools and lifeguard shortages, our legislation will make our city cooler, greener and more resilient,” Council Member Krishnan said in a council meeting last spring.
Council Member Kirshnan’s bill is part of a “water safety package,” passed alongside Council Member Julie Menin’s legislation that requires City public schools to offer free swim lessons to its second-grade students, and Introduction 962A, sponsored by Majority Whip Selvena Brooks-Powers, which mandates the DPR to identify locations where additional public swimming pools could be built with a focus on communities that are currently lacking access.
“This is a matter of equity and inclusion.,” Council Member Menin said, citing the 2017 Department of Health Survey which found that 27 percent of New York City public school students do not know how to swim.
While drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in the United States, as Councilmember Menin mentioned, that gap widens dramatically in marginalized communities.
According to data from the CDC, Black children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are almost 3x more likely to drown than their white counterparts, and while only 8 percent of white children don’t know how to swim, that number also triples for black (35.6 percent) and asian (34.3 percent) children.
All 55 pools and public beaches are required to submit their reports by October 1st, beginning this year.
By: Natalie Maher (Natalie is a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)