40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#19: Hunter College North Pool

on April 10, 2012

looking toward the shallow end of Hunter's poolLocation: Upper East Side, Manhattan

Configuration: 4 lanes of 25 yards

Fee: $2 guest pass with member accompaniment

Total Fees to Date: $141.41

Fittingly enough for a school formerly dedicated to teacher education, the Hunter College pool has a thing or two to teach other pools. Through a 2008 renovation by mdm Architecture, the pool gained a high-efficiency dehumidification unit and a low-tech cover, both of which make it more energy efficient.

You can see the cover along the far wall in the photo above; it gets reeled across from the deep end using a cable strung up near the ceiling. Covering the pool overnight keeps water from evaporating, which reduces heat loss, the amount of chemicals required, and the run time for the dehumidifier. It’s such a simple and smart idea that I wonder why other indoor pools don’t follow suit and blanket themselves after hours.

I think the pool must date to the late 1930s along with the rest of the North building it is housed in. The school did not start admitting men until the 1960s, meaning that the pool was built primarily for women, which is neat to think about. (Skinny women, if the lane width is any indication.) In my imagination, the swim times of yore were a bit friendlier than the tightly schedule women’s only session I tried at the Shorefront Y, for example. Other than the small size of just four narrow lanes, it’s a fine place to swim, though a bit on the warm side. People had reasonably good lane etiquette, as is necessary in such tight quarters, the lifeguards were friendly and helpful, and the locker room was adequate if lacking in frills. Fellow swimmers represented a wide variety of skills, ages, and ethnicities, including a woman in a full-body swim cover who I believe was Muslim.

Hannah and Stephanie after swimming

Most of Hunter’s other athletic facilities are in the 1985 Sportsplex at the bottom of the West building, which lays claim to being the deepest building in New York City. We had to stop at the Sportsplex as part of the entry process before heading over to the pool, which is just one flight below ground. Like at LaGuardia Community College, there’s a cumbersome sign-in process involving multiple stops before you are allowed in to swim.

This pool scores as the closest to my apartment among the 19 (!) to date, but it’s not one I can use regularly, as guests are only allowed with a Hunter student, faculty, staff, or alum who has a free fitness membership. My entry came courtesy of Stephanie, a big supporter of this project who is already scheming about more pool tourism. When she’s not swimming, she’s a librarian, helping to ensure that Hunter’s teaching legacy continues.

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5 responses to “#19: Hunter College North Pool

  1. Hannah says:

    My brother, an energy efficiency expert, has this to say:

    You’re right that evaporation and not just convection or conduction heat losses are the big issue – and that a pool cover is most of what is required to prevent such losses – just like covering a boiling pot of water allows cooking on a lower flame. And in turn, they should have lower humidity to start with for their dehumidification system to work on. It also sounds like they should turn down their heater a few degrees as well – that would be a nice compliment to their cover… I think I also recall that chlorine evaporates faster and at a lower temperature than H2O, so it also makes sense that a cover might prevent some chlorine losses.

    I wonder how many institutional pools have steam heat – I think central steam plants are pretty common in the NE. In some cases, the steam can be co-generated with electricity – soaking up heat that would otherwise be wasted – leading to a pretty darn efficient system.

  2. Naomi says:

    I was a lifeguard at this pool in 1983-84. Back then it was very humid.

  3. Dahlia says:

    Oh, this brings back memories. I went to Hunter College High School and practiced here for swim practice for 3 years! (Would have been 4, but sophomore year we swam at Stuyvesant because they were removing asbestos from the pool area). Yes, very humid.

  4. Hannah says:

    Another update from a newsletter found by the energy efficiency expert:

    Pool covers, a seemingly small step at first glance, have also made a
    big dent in energy conservation. Strawberry Canyon, Golden Bear, and
    Hearst pool [#53: https://40pools.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/53-uc-berkeley-hearst-pool/ –but not Spieker #52: https://40pools.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/52-uc-berkeley-spieker-pool/%5D all have covers. The most recent one, installed at Hearst
    last fall, will save an estimated 12,000 therms of natural gas per year
    – the same amount of energy used to heat thirty homes!
    The total Hearst pool cover project cost was about $19,000, however PG&E
    offers a $1 rebate for every therm saved. This translated to Rec Sports
    receiving a $12,000 rebate on the original cost. These savings will
    continue year after year: based on current energy prices, this pool
    cover will save about $8,900 each year. Even before the first year was
    over, the savings have completely paid for the pool cover.

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