Islip Town Lifeguards Reinstated After Controversy

Town of Islip Lifeguards
Cover photo of petition “Reinstatement of Lifeguards”

Five experienced and celebrated Fire Island Ocean District (FIOD) lifeguards have been invited to serve again this summer after the Town of Islip unexpectedly did not rehire them for the 2024 season. The move comes a week after a petition was launched by their coworkers to get the group invited back to the lifeguard program.

Fire Island News was informed of the decision to bring back the lifeguards by their colleague and the petition’s organizer, Devin Heffernan, via email on Friday. According to the petition, the impacted FIOD staff members include Lifeguard Carter Baron, Lifeguard Sam Lepore, Lifeguard Hana Lepore, Chief Lifeguard Anthony Oliveto, and Chief Lifeguard Craig Amarando.

Devin said of the decision to reinstate his colleagues: “It is wonderful news, but there is still a sour taste in our staff’s mouths. There will now be an effort to expose the individuals responsible for these shenanigans.”

All five of the lifeguards have multiple years and in two cases decades, of previous service. Carter Baron, Sam Lepore, and Hana Lepore have all served the FIOD for the last nine years, while Anthony Oliveto has served for 39 years, and Craig Amarando has served for 34 years. However, this year they say they were not contacted about returning for the new season, prompting the creation of the petition by their colleagues.

The petition posted on by Devin on Friday, June 21, had 902 signatures as of 3:48 p.m. on Friday, June 28. The petition argued that not rehiring these lifeguards was unjust, endangered “the morale of the entire staff,” threatened “the entire organization’s future welfare,” and had negative implications for public safety.

The petition also showcased the contributions of the lifeguards. These included Carter’s role as a “standout competitor” on the lifeguard competition team and the Lepore siblings receiving special recognition for saving a child who fell beneath a ferry. Anthony and Craig’s decades of service and experience and their roles as leaders and mentors within the FIOD were also highlighted. The petition also called for Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter and the Labor Relations Office to respond by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26. Petition organizers did not receive a direct response, but a meeting between their union representative Alex Scichilone and Angie Carpenter was scheduled, and this meeting has now led to the lifeguards’ reinstatement, according to Devin.

Several impacted lifeguards spoke with Fire Island News on Tuesday, June 25, a few days before the decision to return them was reached. At that meeting, Anthony told us the affected lifeguards applied for their positions but were not asked to return or even notified about that decision.

“Town of Islip never notified us, never sent us a letter, a phone call. We heard it from our union rep; they haven’t given us a reason why we are not hired back.” Only Anthony and Craig were even directly informed by the union representative that they were not welcomed back. The younger lifeguards had been left in the dark entirely. According to Devin, their contract says lifeguards are supposed to be notified about being rehired by May 1.

Anthony explained: “Normally, when it comes to a seasonal lifeguard position, as long as you have all your certifications and are up to date on all your protocols, you are automatically hired back every season.” He also asserted that all of the affected lifeguards were up to date on their certifications and that three of them, himself, Craig, and Hana, were recertified just last August.

Craig said of the whole predicament on Tuesday, “To say that I am beyond distraught wouldn’t even cover my feelings. For 34 years, I have given my heart and soul to the ocean, (and) The Town of Islip, and anyone you speak to would reiterate that. Emotionally ya know it’s draining, it’s sad. I’m beyond pissed off. I’m devastated. I would never think something like this would happen.” Carter echoed these sentiments and pointed out how the treatment of the older lifeguards was particularly egregious, saying it was “heartbreaking that they don’t really have our back and you can be the most dedicated and loyal guy on the beach and they’re not there to stand by your side.”

Craig now expresses disenchantment over the situation even though he is happy to have his job back. He said to Fire Island News on Friday afternoon, “Yes, hey, I got my job back; of course, that’s good, but what they did to me should have repercussions.” Carter simply said, “I’m happy to be back to save lives as well as compete in the ocean lifeguard tournaments and put my team on the map.”

When asked for comment on the situation on Wednesday, June 26, by Fire Island News, a Town of Islip Spokesperson said: “We do not normally comment on personnel issues. However, the summer hiring process is still ongoing.” It is clear now that this short statement foreshadowed the reinstatement of the lifeguards, who will now thankfully be back patrolling our beaches this season.