Brigid Bergin, Reporter
Brigid Bergin is the City Hall and politics reporter for WNYC.
New York City beaches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day under the watchful eye of some 1,300 lifeguards. With a starting rate of $13.57 an hour, it's a good gig for someone who's saving for college and for people who have summers off like Brooklyn native Janet Fash.
Fash, 51, has been patrolling the beaches in the Rockaways for 31 years. She works as a teacher during the school year, but spends her summer managing a team of lifeguards along a half mile stretch of sand and ocean in Queens.
"The first thing I do when I get to work is I look at the ocean," said Fash, the chief lifeguard at Beach 96th Street. "Is it high tide? Is it low tide? Do we have any rip currents? And the next thing is to assign the lifeguards to their chairs."
A petite 5-foot-6, Fash doesn't look like someone who could save a struggling swimmer. But her frame is deceptive.
"I always like to say the water equalizes us," said Fash, "I'm a great runner, and I can run fast like a lot of the guys and I can swim really fast. And when you get in the water to do a rescue you have your tool, a torpedo, and you're floating, you know, it's not the same as being on land."