Following the tragic deaths this summer of two 13-year-old boys in the Bronx River, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today announced that NYC Parks has implemented a series of changes at boat launch areas to enhance water safety.  The announcement was held at Hunts Point Riverside Park along the Bronx River, with many of the changes on display.  Also in attendance at the announcement were Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., State Assembly Member Marcos A. Crespo, Reverand Joel Bauza, representatives from Community Board 2, Community Board 9, and community-based organizations including the Bronx River Alliance, the Point Community Development Corp., Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, and Rocking the Boat.

“Every parent felt the pain when two young boys were lost earlier this summer in the Bronx River, and we are committed to taking every step possible to help keep our children safe from harm in our city’s parks, beaches and waterfronts,” said Commissioner Silver.  “Through our new self-closing gates, life rings, clear signage, and further safety measures, we are working on all fronts to keep New Yorkers safe.  In a city surrounded by more than 500 miles of waterfront, we must be vigilant in providing enhanced safeguards and promoting water safety for all New Yorkers.”

NYC Parks completed a citywide review of our boat launches and implemented the following changes at the eight boat launches that directly lead into deep waters:

  • Installing self-closing gates at boat launch entrances.
  • Installing life rings and throw lines on the launches.
  • Installing an explicit warning sign on the gates in English and Spanish that states: “Danger: No Swimming/No Diving.  These water bodies are affected by strong currents and sudden drop-offs that have contributed to drowning.”
  • Stenciling “No Swimming/No Diving” messages on the docks.
  • Installing solar powered emergency call boxes near the entrances to the launches.  (To be installed in the next few weeks)
  • Instituting a weekly inspection protocol of these elements by the Parks Enforcement Patrol.
  • Equipping maintenance vehicles, which are assigned to operate near boat launches or open bodies of water, to carry additional life rings and throw lines.

Augmented signage will also be placed at more than 40 boat launches, including those that lead into shallow waters.

“When our borough faced an unspeakable tragedy in June—the drowning deaths of two young men in the Bronx River—the community called out for safety improvements,”  said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.  “Commissioner Silver and the Parks Department listened, and the improvements we announce here today show just how attentive this agency has been to the safety concerns of this community and the entire city. As the summer comes to a close, I urge everyone who uses our recreational waterways to be safe.”

“Commissioner Silver and Parks have developed a comprehensive plan to improve safety at city boat launches after completing their review,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation. “Though better infrastructure and signage are a great start, we must increase education to parents and children about the dangers of swimming in prohibited areas. I look forward to working with Parks on these efforts and ensuring that more children have access to free swim lessons.”

“I applaud Commissioner Silver and the NYC Parks Department for taking swift action to put new water safety measures in place after the tragic deaths of two young boys earlier this summer,” said Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey D. Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester).  “In a city such as ours, surrounded by water, these safeguards will ensure that our residents are able to enjoy summer activities and remain safe.”

“I commend the NYC Parks department for swiftly responding to the pain as a community felt after the tragic death of two teenage boys in the Bronx River,” said Marcos A. Crespo, Member of Assembly, 85th District.  “These safety improvements will go a long way to helping avoid another tragedy. Our community may never fully recover from this loss, but once again we have found the strength to move forward and help implement improvements that may saves many lives in the future.”

“I am pleased to see the steps taken by Commissioner Silver of NYC Parks to ensure the safety of our children when they are near bodies of water,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.  “These additional safety devices will help to keep our children out of areas where they may find themselves unable to swim.  In addition, we must also continue to educate our children on the dangers of swimming in these treacherous areas, so that a tragedy like the one that occurred earlier this year will not happen again.”

Water safety also includes teaching children to swim.  NYC Parks has two programs, “Learn to Swim,” during the summer, and “Swim for Life,” our school year companion program with the Department of Education, the YMCA of Greater New York and Asphalt Green, through which we teach swimming and water safety basics to more than 35,000 children each year.  NYC Parks is also planning to launch a high-profile public campaign focused on water safety prior to next summer.

New York City is a city surrounded by water, with more than 500 miles of shoreline – 14 miles along the Bronx River alone.  There are also 14 miles of beaches, which were visited by nearly 15 million people last summer, and 55 outdoor pools which were visited by nearly 1,600,000 people last summer.