Hurricane Sandy surged into town more than a month ago, upending life throughout the region in countless ways. New reports about its effects continue to pour forth, even as business is back to normal in some parts of the city. In the suburbs and parks, the high winds toppled trees willy-nilly, crushing whatever was in their path. In much of New York City, though, seawater reaching heights nearly 15 feet above normal was the biggest problem–the same seawater that is usually such a comfort and pleasant escape.
For those of us lucky enough to escape the most direct wrath of the storm, everyday concerns like where to swim became complicated despite feeling trivial compared to the many more serious problems. With the reopening of Chelsea Piers today and the Polar Bears starting their season tomorrow, here’s a report on what the storm meant for some local pools and beaches.
Mass transit was one of the first casualties, closing on Sunday evening and thus forcing the closure of gyms whose staff rely on transit to get to and from their jobs. Even if they weren’t damaged by the storm, most facilities did not reopen until at least Thursday, when some trains were running again. Riverbank State Park’s indoor pool was in this category, although its outdoor track remains closed ostensibly due to wind damage to one of the light towers.
Most CUNY campuses stayed closed through Thursday, with those that hadn’t lost power reopening at the end of the week, including John Jay and City College pools. Baruch was without power all week, and even when it returned the pool’s heater didn’t work, so the pool was out of commission another two weeks. It was chilly when it reopened but is now back to normal. NYU and its pools were also closed and without power for a week, and I don’t know if they experienced other complications.
Asphalt Green‘s member locker became temporarily one with the East River, and as usual the Battery Park City outpost’s completion is delayed. Roosevelt Island’s pool took a beating with the rest of the island and finally reopened on November 26. Chelsea Piers was also hit very hard and just came back online today. In the intervening month, the McBurney Y and my team welcomed their swimmers.
City rec centers also suffered. That’s Asser Levy’s outdoor pool in the photo at the top of this post, nearly filled with water again–saltwater–long after it was drained for the season. It remains to be revealed whether this caused problems here or at other low-lying outdoor pools such as Ham Fish and Red Hook. Asser Levy’s indoor pool is still closed due to damage to the rec center, likewise the Tony Dapolito pool and rec center and a number of others throughout the five boroughs.Meanwhile, the receding floodwater left Brighton Beach covered in debris of all shapes and sizes, including boardwalk planks, decks ripped from homes, refrigerators, and telephone poles–much of it with nails poking out. CIBBOWS and Polar Bears helped consolidate the debris into piles for easier pick-up by the Parks Department. The Polar Bears canceled their entire November schedule due to damage at their home base–the Aquarium–and worries about what’s in the water, so they will be doing their first dip of the fall tomorrow. (One of the few other times they canceled a swim in recent memory was their prescient protest against climate change in 2007.) The Shorefront Y became and remains a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, meaning it is up and running and welcoming community members who need assistance.
In short, the pools all suffered, but the extent of damage was widely uneven. Those that reopened within a few days saw new customers: pool refugees. Those that took harder hits are now facing difficult questions relating to their formerly prized or at least benign waterfront locations. The story will continue to play out in the coming months and years.