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Challengers fall short in lifeguard local’s leadership election


The president of a District Council 37 local representing the city’s lifeguards was re-elected on Friday but reformers pushing for union democracy made inroads into the union’s executive board. 

According to the results released to candidates by Local 461’s election committee on Saturday, Alma Diamond was reelected president, beating back a challenge from lifeguard David Lucena despite what members of the reform slate said was a coalescing around the challenger’s candidacy in the days preceding the election.

But Stephanie Reiter, a lifeguard supported by the reformers, won the union’s secretary-treasurer position and Bryant Colon, another reformer, won a seat on the union’s executive board.

Lifeguards intent on ousting the union’s current leadership had initially supported Kristoff Borrel for president, but he and others on an insurgent slate were barred by the local’s election committee from running because they were not in good standing for the entire preceding year, forcing the lifeguards to regroup and find other candidates to support. Another insurgent lifeguard, Jose Polanco, tied with lifeguard Gavin Erickson in the vote for an executive board seat, necessitating a runoff. 

In an email announcing election results, Local 461’s election committee did not include information about how many lifeguards voted in the election or how many votes each candidate received.

“I want to thank everyone who came out to vote, we had a great turn out," Carlos Adames, the head of the committee, wrote in the email. The results were sent out late Saturday night, and only members who ran in the election received the results, several lifeguards told The Chief. The election was held at two different polling sites, one in Queens and one in Manhattan, throughout the day Friday.

‘The corruption keeps going’

Edwin Agramonte, who organized the original reform slate, was barred from running in the election because he worked as a chief lifeguard in 2023 — a supervisory role — and his union dues were sent to a different lifeguard union, Local 508 of DC 37, effectively precluding him from the election. Local 461’s constitution requires that candidates for leadership positions be dues-paying members in good standing with the union for a year before the election.

But, Rosa Peña, who prevailed in the contest for Local 461’s vice president position, also worked as a chief lifeguard in 2023, according to publicly available payroll data. And Luis Martinez, who won the election for union delegate, the same post Agramonte sought, is also listed as having been a chief lifeguard in 2023.

Step-up promotions to supervisor positions for year-round lifeguards are common in the Parks Department, and often the lifeguards will still pay dues to Local 461 while they are in those roles. But Agramonte’s dues, and the dues of other reform candidates who got step-up promotions in 2023, were redirected to Local 508 last year.

The reform slate’s members argue that if Martinez’s and Peña’s dues were directed to Local 508 last summer, they too should have been barred from running in last week’s election.

Local 461’s election committee did not respond to emails requesting the full vote count, to an inquiry as to why Peña and Martinez were able to run while Agramonte was barred and also to why the election was held in March if the local’s constitution mandates it be conducted in February.

Agramonte said that even if Martinez’s and Peña’s dues went towards Local 461 during the period they worked as chief lifeguards, the local’s barring of some candidates while it supported the candidacy of incumbents in similar standing is evidence of a double standard and the targeting of lifeguards pushing for union reforms.

“The corruption keeps going,” he said. “If I’m not able to run because I’m a supervisor in the summer, why is she able to?” he added, referring to Peña. 

Agramonte sued Local 461 after the 2021 leadership elections because a slate of seasonal lifeguards he was hoping to run alongside was barred from participating in the election. That suit was eventually dismissed but Agramonte feels he’s been targeted by the union’s leadership since then and seasonal lifeguards, who make up the vast majority of Local 461’s nearly 1,200 members, weren’t allowed to vote in the 2021 election or this year’s contest.


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