Docks made safer to prevent drowning occurences

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, along with Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Ruben Diaz Sr. and others discuss new water safety precautions at Riverside Park in Hunts Point on August 22.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

The city has a new plan to make boating docks safer, two months after a pair of teenagers drowned in the Bronx River.

Many gathered at Hunts Point Riverside Park in Hunts on Friday, August 22 as NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced a series of major changes at eight boat launches along with sign improvements at over 40 different boat launches around the city to keep boaters and swimmers safe.

The announcement was made two months after 13-year old boys Erickson Villa and Wellington Gabin drowned in the Bronx River after they had been playing in the same park back on June 20.

Since this incident, locals and elected officials have expressed worry of a similar situation happening again.

This $100,000 plan includes self-closing gates, floating devices and throw lines, no swimming/no diving signs on the docks and maintenance vehicles carrying additional equipment.

The water safety precautions don’t end there.

It also includes weekly inspections by the Parks Enforcement Patrol, bilingual warning signs on the gates, along with solar powered emergency call boxes near entrances, which will be installed in the next few weeks.

Other safety precautions include two programs that teach over 35,000 children how to swim each year – Learn to Swim during the summer and Swim for Life year round.

“When you have an incident like what happened with those two teenage boys, action needs to be taken,” said Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Diaz Jr., who grew up just across the Bronx River and right next to Soundview Park, said hearing about the tragic deaths affected him that much more knowing that it took place in his old community.

“It hurts,” he said. “It’s always sad when these situations occur, but especially when the victims are young and they come from the same neighborhood that you did.”

This new plan improves safety at boat launches in Hunts Point Riverside Park and Starlight Park in the Bronx, along with three in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn and one in Queens.

A local spiritual leader called the plan “reassuring” in response to the victims’ families concerns.

”The goal of this plan was to echo the voice and concerns of the victims’ family and friends,” said Senior Pastor Joel Bauza of Calvary Church. “By holding this event and putting this plan in motion, we are letting the family and friends of those victims know that your voice has been heard.”

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at sgood‌stein‌@cngl‌ocal.com.

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