Location: Upper East Side, New York
Configuration: 8 lanes of 50 meters, or various configurations involving 25- and 20-yard lanes
Fee: Free via Fitness Passbook
Fees to Date: $158.74
I can deal with hairballs, and I can deal with attitude, but they make for a demoralizing combination when at the same pool. That is why I am just not that into this Olympic-sized pool located a hop, skip, and a jump from my apartment.
The good news is that my visit here last weekend allowed me to do my last loooong swim in preparation for Stage 1 of 8 Bridges later this month. This will be my first marathon swim attempt since 2009, and I’ve enjoyed having the goal to focus on. I had planned to do the training swim at Manhattan Plaza so I could bask in the hot tub (hello, Iceland!) and sun deck afterward. Unfortunately, they turned me away; no guests allowed on summer weekends. Pondering the alternatives, Asphalt Green seemed most logical, so that’s where I went. It has the advantage of easily visible digital clocks, helpful for keeping track of feeding times–something that would have been harder at Manhattan Plaza.
Because my trip here was on short notice, I hadn’t arranged to meet up with any friends, didn’t bring my camera, and didn’t want to “count” it. Part-way through, I got inspired to do the requisite laps of butterfly to make it count and decided I would therefore also have to do the blog post. The photo above is from 2008 after an even longer training swim; for a better sense of the pool, here are someone else’s pictures.
The pool opened in my neighborhood shortly after I moved to New York. It aspires to send New York swimmers to the Olympics, a worthy goal that is still a work in progress. The name comes from another building that is part of the site and used to be an asphalt plant, and I suppose the green is the artificial turf field. The complex has become quite the lively little corner of Yorkville. I was a joined in 2007-2009.
Having said some nice things, it is now time to present my main complaints.
How bad are the hairballs? Well, Westchester John has named the biggest one Willard after the 1970s B movie of man versus rat. He reports that the masters team swimmers joke about lost toupees when they encounter particularly sizable specimens. Relief is on the way in August, when the pool closes for its annual cleaning. Why they don’t clean more often (and less disruptively) or have their Scuba class or lifeguard trainees rescue the hairballs I couldn’t tell you.
How bad is the attitude? Like the hairballs, it comes in different shapes and sizes. Some of it is turf related; space is very tight due to the number of schools, clubs, teams, tri groups, and other programs that have assigned times, leaving scant room for members. Lap swim is often squeezed into just four lanes, so there is a lot more bickering about space and etiquette than you might expect at such a large pool. That schedule is further reduced by frequent closures for meets and special events.
Equally frustrating is the antagonism between members and management. When I was a member, I felt like management constantly belittled us, poo-pooing legitimate concerns, taking its time on maintenance and repairs, and imposing restrictions that detract from the pool experience. One rule they implemented made circle swimming mandatory and disallowed the splitting of a lane by two swimmers, for example.
Maintenance projects drag on interminably (much like the building of Asphalt Green’s new pool in Battery Park City, which was supposed to have opened months ago but keeps being delayed). I remember tile work on the deck, for example, that had diving boards taken out of use and “caution” tape all over for what seemed like forever. The membership cards didn’t work to open certain necessary entrances for a long time after system upgrade. An on-deck sauna did not function the entire time I was a member, and an underwater viewing room seems to have been repurposed for storage. A digital display screen that used to show the time and other information was always a few minutes off, and rather than fixing it they stopped using it to show the time. For $100/month, you’d think there would be warm water in the showers, but the temperature was often cool or fluctuating. The “solution” was to post signs admonishing members to “please be patient” while showers warmed up. Um, if I get through my entire shower and it’s still not warm, I don’t think the problem has to do with my own lack of patience.
Two years of cold showers, broken saunas, in-lane cat fights, and hairball dodging was enough for me, and I gave up my membership after my 2009 marathon swim training was over. It’s taken me a while to find ways to hit the same yardage tallies, requiring traveling farther from home but costing less. Oddly, I am now grateful to Asphalt Green for being so mediocre. If I liked it any better, this project may not have ever come about, and I would have missed out on many wonderful experiences.