Out of Their Depth
Volleyball Players Rescued from Hudson, After Jumping Into River to Retrieve Ball
Two young men were pulled from the waters of the Hudson River on Saturday morning, after jumping from the Battery Park City Esplanade to retrieve a volleyball that went over the railing, near North Cove Marina.
The men, whose names have not been released, were playing volleyball on the court that overlooks that yacht basin at approximately 11:40 am, when a wild serve sent their ball into the Hudson. Impulsively, they both leaped in after it.
Although both appear to be in good physical condition, they seem to have underestimated the difference in elevation between the water’s surface and the Esplanade (more than ten feet), and not to have realized that the exterior of Battery Park City’s seawall does not contain any ladders or stairways from which a person in the water can climb back up to the Esplanade. (In 2018, the Battery Park City Authority, at the urging of Community Board 1, installed life preservers at five locations along the Esplanade, but the nearest of these to Saturday’s incident is located two blocks way, at Rector Place.)
The men may have assumed they would be able to swim north to the Marina, and then hoist themselves onto one of the floating docks at which boats moor. But they didn’t reckon with the strength or speed of the Hudson’s current, which was moving southward (away from the Marina) at that hour, and found themselves unable to swim against it.
The water temperature in the Hudson on Saturday morning was 62 degrees, according to the federal government’s National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration. Although this may strike many readers as comfortable level of warmth, it is actually 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the standard recommended for swimming pools, and cold enough for exhaustion and hypothermia to become serious threats within a relatively short period of time.
As the young men began drifting southward, toward the Battery, several bystanders called 911 and requested emergency assistance. A boat from the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit happened to be nearby in the Hudson, and was on the scene within minutes. The two young men were plucked from the River, near Albany Street, and then deposited at North Cove.
Contrary to a widely held assumption, there is no law against swimming in the Hudson River, although the conduct of the young men does appear to violate two relevant administrative codes. The Battery Park City Parks Rules and Regulations state that, “no swimming or bathing shall be permitted in waters in or adjacent to the parks or other property under the jurisdiction,” of the Authority. And the Hudson River Park Trust’s official Park Rules and Regulations say that, “except as otherwise specifically authorized by the Trust, swimming or wading in waters under the jurisdiction of the trust is permitted only at authorized swimming and pool areas and only during the bathing season as may be designated by the Trust.” Nonetheless, officers of the Harbor Unit did not issue a summons to either of the men.
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