Location: Riverdale, Bronx
Configuration: 12 lanes of 50 meters
Fees to Date: $181.74
The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park is notable for many reasons. At 1,146 acres, it is the city’s fourth-largest park. It’s got the oldest house in the borough, the oldest public golf course in the country, and a world-famous cross country course (est. 1913) marked by a renowned statue, Tortoise and Hare. It’s also got the pool that ended a near-drought in NYC pool building in record time.
The Van Cortlandt Park pool opened in the early 1970s. My teammate Tony (above, at front) visited it that summer and then not again until last Thursday, when he joined me, Janet, Michael, and John in our own lane for early bird laps. Tony and Michael are not normally early birds, but we had such a lovely time that they said they’d be motivated to do more morning swims during the last weeks of outdoor-pool season.
We picked a great morning to go–the blue sky and puffy clouds looked especially nice together with the woods framing the pool. The complex feels to me like a country club, given the various pastel cabanas and out-buildings–fine concrete specimens, all. Swimming along, it’s easy to pretend you are far away from the busy Bronx streets and elevated subway line just outside the park.
Janet dressed for the occasion, sporting a Tortoise and Hare T-shirt, and we chose this theme for our workout. Sets included a team pursuit-like drill where the last swimmer had to overtake the first and a race between tortoises doing 200s and hares doing 50 sprints with naps in between. I favor the tortoise approach but put some effort into the hare portions when appropriate.
The pool itself is something of a hare, having raced from conception to completion in just 11 months, a feat Mayor Lindsay claimed as a record. More impressive in my book is that this pool was the first of 19 to open in the early 1970s, ending a dry spell in new pools since the WPA Era (the only exception being the 1966 Lasker Pool in Central Park). Designed by Heery & Heery architects, the complex originally included a diving pool, wading pool, and Olympic-sized pool. The diving pool is no longer there; I’m wondering if beach volleyball marks the spot.
As explained on the Parks website, the pools built at this time “were handled in an accelerated manner, owing to the acute need for more recreational facilities. The ‘systematized’ design process explains the standard look of each site, which included cabana-like modules, 24 feet square, made of precast concrete and prefabricated aluminum pool tanks and filter systems.” It all looks good to me, and if this pool weren’t so far away I’d try to make it more than once a year.