Location: Tompkinsville, Staten Island
Configuration: 3 x 33 1/3-yard courtesy lanes during my visit; 12 x 50-meter lanes during lap swim
Situated alongside Hannah Street (!) a short walk from the St. George Ferry Terminal, and in eyeshot of New York Harbor, Joseph H. Lyons Pool has been a favorite since I visited for a night owl swim a while back. Years later, I finally returned on my last “summer Friday” off from work. Not only was this my 80th “new” pool since 2012–doubling my original goal–but it was the first blog-worthy dip with my longtime swim buddy Jen.
Lyons, designated a landmark in 2008, is Staten Island’s WPA gem. Like so many other favorites from Robert Moses’s building rampage that left no borough un-pooled, it opened in 1936. In addition to the main pool, it’s got a diving pool (closed) as well as a spray pool, all amid the signature brickwork and ornamental details that it shares with its WPA siblings. A tall brick smokestack emblazoned with the Parks logo makes the complex visible from a far. A historic photo posted in the grand entryway (at left) depicts the pool as it was nearing completion, giving a sense of the scope of the project.
Jen had the smart idea of visiting during regular hours (obligatory locks at the ready), where we each got a courtesy lane to ourselves. There were a good number of other patrons enjoying the water–which seemed exceptionally clear–but it was by no means crowded. Despite this, we were rushed through the locker rooms just before 7:00, because of an inexplicable prohibition against mixing open swim patrons with night owl lap swimmers.
The locker rooms, while spacious and colorful, were stocked with the cubby-sized micro-lockers used at so many Parks outdoor pools. If you had spent the day, say, out on your bike with a friend discovering a flock of goats and exploring your ideal beach as selected by a Parks quiz, the laws of physics would prevent you from being able to fit all your stuff into a single locker. Fortunately, the you-must-have-a-lock rule does not specify that all of your belongings be locked up together.
Before a beautiful return to Manhattan across the harbor at sunset, we stopped to celebrate Jen’s upcoming birthday at New York City’s first Dairy Queen, in the ferry terminal. (Yes, yes, I know that Manhattan now has its own DQ.) Beach, pool, friends, and ice cream–a perfect summer day. As Robert Moses himself put it in 1934, “It is no exaggeration to say that the health, happiness, efficiency and orderliness of a large number of the city’s residents, especially in the summer months, are tremendously affected by the presence or absence of adequate swimming and bathing facilities.”