NEW YORK (PIX11) — On Wednesday, following multiple shark sightings off New York area beaches the day before, and after a woman got bitten by a shark the day before that, New York City unveiled its new plan for protecting beachgoers from sharks. 

It came on the same day that Rockaway beaches reopened, after a full day of closure.

The sands at Beach 59th Street, where Monday’s shark attack took place, had flagpoles lined up, flat on the sand, nearly end to end, late Wednesday morning. Attached to each pole was a bright red flag emblazoned with the words “No Swimming.” The flags had been taken down and were eventually rolled up, with the reopening of the beach at 10 a.m. 

People were allowed back in the water for the first time in 40 hours following Monday’s attack. This time, people who chose to wade into the surf were under even more watchful eyes than before. 

Joseph Pfeifer, the first deputy commissioner of the FDNY, was at the scene an hour before the reopening and explained the new protective measures.

“Every morning before the beaches open,” Pfeifer said, “we will fly drones.”

“And we will have, as you see behind me,” he continued, as he pointed to patrol vessels off the shore, “our fire boats and police boats scanning the water.” 

Inspector Frank Di Giacomo, a senior official in the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit, elaborated. He pointed out that the police and fire departments would have aerial patrols over city beaches frequently, every day.

“Drone units will be fixed from … 9:00 in the morning to probably dusk time, when it’s dark out,” Inspector Di Giacomo said.

Commissioner Pfeifer elaborated on the effect that the enhanced beach patrolling is intended to have. 

“If we spot a shark,” he said, “then we’ll make a decision to close the beach.” 

Frequent helicopter, ship, and drone patrols are now happening in addition to lifeguards already being posted. Citywide, there’s a significant shortage of lifeguards, but at Rockaway Beach, the situation is less severe. That fact may have made all the difference when the shark bite occurred at Beach 59th Street Monday evening. 

“Thank God we were still here,” said James McFadden, one of the lifeguards who responded to the shark bite emergency. It happened at 5:52 p.m., according to the FDNY. That’s just eight minutes before lifeguards are dismissed from their elevated beach patrol chairs.  

They usually leave the beach area shortly after that, McFadden pointed out. “Thirty minutes later,” he said, “nobody would’ve been around.” 

He said that he and his fellow lifeguards sprang into action when the 65-year-old woman was bitten by the shark. She emerged from the surf, McFadden said, and screamed for help.  

Some of his colleagues were much closer to the place where the woman emerged from the water. 

“They made a tourniquet out of sweatpants, and then out of the buoy,” which lifeguards tied around the woman’s thigh to help stop the significant bleeding, McFadden said. “It saved that woman’s life.”

For her part, the victim is not talking, but her family released a statement:

“Our mother is grateful to be alive after today’s events, and we’re all thankful to the lifeguards, emergency response workers, and team at Jamaica Hospital Center. 

We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support we have received, but for now we ask above all for everyone respect our privacy as we focus all of our energies on helping her to recover.”

There were no sharks sighted on New York City beaches on Wednesday. The day before, according to city agencies, a shark was seen off Breezy Point, in Queens, and there was also a shark spotted near Beach 59th Street, where the shark attack had happened the evening before.

About 13 miles east, at least two sharks were sighted, off Jones Beach, in Nassau County, on Tuesday. Lifeguards cleared the beach and kept it closed all day.

Jones Beach also reopened on Wednesday, after no sharks were sighted close to shore.