40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#55: 92nd Street Y May Center for Health, Fitness & Sport

92nd Street Y pool

Photo by 92nd Street Y

Location: Upper East Side, Manhattan

Configuration: 4 lanes of 25 yards

Fee: Free via Fitness Passbook

It used to take a natural disaster to bring me to the 92nd Street Y pool. Only when conditions made it extremely difficult to get to any other pool, such as during an ice storm a few years ago, would I stoop to swimming at this facility mere blocks from my apartment. Despite having two Passbook passes last year, I never paid a visit.

Fortunately, it has received a makeover in appearance, attitude, and even scheduling since my last visit, and I’m happy to be able to count it as my first “new” pool for this project in 2013. It’s not that I’ve slacked off on pool-hopping, it’s just harder to find pools after knocking off 54 low-hanging fruit last year. Had I known about the improvements here, perhaps it, too, would have made the cut in 2012.

Yesterday morning’s motivation was a pre-spring nor’easter that dumped a few inches of slushy snow overnight. I couldn’t bear to make my usual early morning bike trek to Riverbank, so I hoofed it to Lexington Avenue for a dip here. Am I glad I did! First off, everyone was friendly at this early hour–staff and patrons, many of them of a certain age–a pleasant contrast to the other pool near my apartment that I hardly ever swim at. The lifeguard in particular was kindly proactive in balancing out the lanes and warning swimmers of impending collisions, a helpful step given the wide disparity in swim speeds and styles among the four lanes. I got in a reasonably long workout, dodging swimmers here and there, followed by a poolside hot tub soak, in itself reason enough to visit. Other points in this pool’s favor include its bright lighting and the spacious, well-provisioned locker rooms and lounge. It feels like someone who actually knew what she was doing worked on the space, a sadly uncommon experience in a locker room. If only the pool could be enlarged! Pay attention to the schedule when planning to your visit so you go at a time with maximum lane space.

This is a good place to practice FINA-regulation turns, because instead of a gutter at the end of the pool there is a flat, attractively tiled wall extending more than a foot out of the water. The pool claims to be “the first commercial indoor pool in New York State to be primarily disinfected by ozone.” To be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference, unless it contributed to a slight cloudiness in the water. Another quirk is the misalignment between lane lines on the top–for four lanes–and markings on the bottom for five.

The Y’s cultural stature also deserves mention. This venerable institution, a YM-YWHA, was established in the late 1800s and now provides world-renowned programming for all ages in diverse realms such as arts, culture, Jewish life and education, as well as health and fitness. The first building on the site opened in 1900, and an annex with a small(er) pool was added in 1911. The “new” building with the current pool opened in 1930. Although clearly not young, it is well maintained, just like many of its members.

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