Location: Harlem, New York
Configuration: 6 lanes of 25 yards
Fee: $10.13 TNYA subscription
Fees to Date: $191.87
City College is all about opportunity. For generations of studious New Yorkers, it was the place to gain a post-secondary education regardless of religion, family history, or financial means. More recently, it imposed modest fees for tuition and opened its doors to all New York City high school graduates regardless of their grades. For me, several years into my New York existence, it provided the opportunity to improve upon my collegiate education and earn an MA that I could pay for out of pocket. For my swim team, it is a place to come home to again.
I swam laps here occasionally while in grad school, so I was immediately comfortable returning to the pool when I first joined my team. We had two-hour-long workouts on weekends with legendary coach Paul Fortoul, a CCNY alum who orchestrated the pool like a symphony, wrapping up complicated sets where each lane did its own thing with everyone finishing in unison. We also held a day-long edition of the One Hour Swim here each January, and we even used the pool for a photo shoot. When CCNY tripled the rates a handful of years back, my team found more affordable waters to swim in. That same fall, coach Paul died, and my mind has conflated the loss of him with the loss of the pool.
A worldwide financial crisis and several pools later, my team was again in need. Columbia was kicking us out along with some other rental customers, and we were able to get back in at CCNY. Practices there started over the summer, but I couldn’t be bothered to swim indoors until the outdoor pools closed up for the season, and then I hurried back. If I had to be swimming inside, at least it would be in an old favorite that would count as a “new” one for this blog.
Little has changed in my years away. Access to the pool is still through a circuitous, poorly signed series of corridors. The women’s locker rooms are still massive and creepy. The ceiling fixtures still resemble tea lights and uncooked ziti. The pool schedule leaves the water empty much of the day. All this notwithstanding, it’s still a lovely place to swim. The water is so clear that my teammate’s false tooth with a fleck of gold was recently recovered from the 12-foot-deep end two days after it was lost, and there have been diamond earrings lost and found here as well. If only Paul could still be here with us, it would be just like the good old days.
The biggest change I’ve noticed is a void where the diving boards used to be. There are also new wall-mounted pool covers, a là Hunter. Given the warm water temperature, I’m hoping that this energy conservation tactic isn’t being deployed.
The workout I attended right after Labor Day was led by Scott, who is now half a year into being my team’s head coach. His practices always include much more speedwork than I’d ever do on my own, and this one was true to form. Whereas the lanes were always pretty full at Columbia, CCNY doesn’t draw quite as big a crowd despite being just two more stops north on the subway, so I had plenty of room to enjoy the pool and the friends I hadn’t seen all summer while focusing on the workout.
The pool is open to the CCNY community for just three hours a day. My team now uses it for three practices a week, and like CCNY itself we are very welcoming. Give us a try!
Update: Sadly, the pool closed in summer 2013. My understanding is that there was an immediate issue with the pump and a bigger issue with the stairs to the pump room, such that no one will descend to fix the pump. My team has relocated to other pools (Dwight, Hostos), and the prognosis remains uncertain as of spring 2014.