NYC officials call for extended lifeguard hours after teens drowned off Rockaways

New York City officials are calling for new swim safety measures in the aftermath of two teens drowning in the waters off Rockaway Beach two weeks ago.

On June 21, Elyjha Chandler, 16 and Christian Perkins, 17, vanished in the waters off Jacob Riis Park after a swim. Their bodies were recovered last weekend.

"We refuse to accept that this is just going to be a normal part of our summer out here in Rockaway and across the city," said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. 

In response, officials are calling for new swim safety measures to prevent more loss of life. 

"These young men went under the water and, of course, were impacted by a riptide while lifeguards went off duty at 6 p.m," said Richards.

Richards wants the city and Parks department to extend the hours that lifeguards are on duty until dusk, especially during heat waves. He also wants to extend the length of the beach season beyond early September. 

"We really need the union to come back to the table with the Parks Department," he said. "To really work on what those qualifications look like, and also ensuring that we can expedite lifeguards in a way that ensures we can have proper coverage across the city."

The city has been dealing with a lifeguard shortage for the past few years, and currently do not have enough lifeguards to keep every section of every beach open to swimmers.

A beach lifeguard spends long hours surveilling thousands of people a day compared to lifeguards at city pools. The Parks Department says adding more hours to their regular shifts would put undue stress on them that would inhibit their ability to properly surveil the beaches and keep beachgoers safe. 

Officials are also calling on the city to open more public pools and to teach kids how to swim in public schools.