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Rockaway lawmaker applauds signing of landmark water safety bill

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The Rockaway Water Safety Coalition is hailing Gov. Kathy Hochul for signing Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato’s landmark legislation to prevent childhood drownings. (Photo courtesy of Pheffer Amato’s office)

South Queens Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato announced Tuesday, Jan. 4, that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed her legislation creating the first-ever Commission to Prevent Childhood Drownings in New York state.

The landmark bill was inspired by a wave of drownings along the Rockaway Peninsula and was supported by a broad coalition of elected officials, community organizations and swim safety advocates.

“We will save lives with this legislation,” Pheffer Amato said. “We’ve sent a signal that the state of New York cares about preventing unnecessary loss of life and that water safety is not a privilege, but a necessity. This historic commission will use their knowledge to come up with new ways of expanding water safety in our state to protect our children.”

The goal of the commission is to create and launch new tactics and methods to reduce childhood drownings in New York state through obtaining data and holding hearings. The Water Safety Coalition, a group of concerned residents, community groups, nonprofit organizations and local Rockaway businesses, lauded the governor for signing the bill into law.

“Along with the thousands of New Yorkers who have signed petitions, educated themselves and taken action to make their community a safer place,” said Nikita Scott of the Rockaway Water Safety Coalition. “Our coalition looks forward to supporting the implementation of the bill and continuing to work together to make water safety education an essential right for all, to save lives and create a more inclusive recreation community.”

State Senator Tim Kennedy, who represents parts of western New York, carried the bill in the upper chamber.

“Childhood drowning causes hundreds of deaths every year across our nation, along with non-fatal injuries such as severe brain damage,” Kennedy said. “Many of these deaths and injuries can be avoided with proper education, with one study showing that formal swimming lessons reduced the likelihood of childhood drowning by a massive 88%.”

He added that treacherous waters are a statewide concern.

“In western New York, we are blessed with two Great Lakes and numerous rivers, creeks and streams that provide endless recreational opportunities, but also present risks,” Kennedy said. “With the creation of the Commission to Prevent Childhood Drownings, we are setting New York state on a path to save lives.”

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