40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#61: Dwight School Athletic Center Pool

Dwight School pool deep end

Photo courtesy Bob Nelson.

Location: East Harlem, Manhattan

Configuration: 6 lanes x 25 yards

Fee: $10.25 with TNYA subscription

Because the City College pool has been out of service for an extended period of time, my ever-resourceful team has added yet another venue to its schedule: the Dwight School Athletic Center. Ever curious, I checked it out last Thursday evening. Rental fees are high, so we had just three lanes for an hour-long workout with Coach Matt, even though no one else was using the other three lanes. It was lovely.

locker roomThis feels like a new pool. It’s sparkling clean and so freshly painted that you can practically smell it. All the latest pool toys are available, there is an on-deck shower and water fountain, and the locker room has plenty of space and pleasantly tall showers. The water is a deep, twilighty blue.

Amazingly, this “new” pool is about my age. It was built in the 1970s for 1199 Plaza, aka East River Landing, an affordable coop development with more than 1,500 apartments. A renovation in the 1990s didn’t have lasting effects, but this recent renovation is part of a 20-year agreement inaugurated earlier this year with the Dwight School, an Upper West Side private school in need of athletic space for its students to develop their individual “spark of genius.” Tennis, volleyball, and basketball are some of the other sporting possibilities here. There are also fee-based community hours, including lap swimming daily from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m.

pool rulesSome have surmised that the cleanliness is due to lack of use. Certainly my sole visit showed nothing to the contrary. It is, however, worth noting the extensive pool rules, the most emphatic of which–in all caps, mid-sign–mandates rubber pants (?) for all children under four. Swim caps are required for all as well. Perplexingly for this underground location, if there is lightning, the pool closes for half an hour.

doorwayAnother perk is the location just a mile up the street from me. Like the nearby Thomas Jefferson Park Pool, the means of entrance is not immediately obvious from the street, but if you walk off the street into the complex, between two buildings, you’ll see the sign.

We’ll find out this week if the City College pool is reopening. While I hope to see that pool back online, and to resume one-and-a-half hour evening workouts, I do encourage a visit to this pool while we have it.

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#58: Reebok Sports Club Pool

Reebok Club pool

Photo by Reebok Sports Club.

Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan

Configuration: 3 1/2 lanes x 25 yards

Fee: I don’t even want to know, but there are ways in.

I’ve been slow to share my review of this pool because I still can’t believe my good fortune. I became a member of the Reebok Sports Club in the spring, courtesy of my work for NYC Swim, the first time I’ve had a pool membership in several years. While the pool is lovely and well-run, it’s the overall experience that is so special.

Let me start with the women’s locker room, which is a mansion in itself, as if all the space squeezed out of the inadequate locker rooms I usually find myself in somehow got combined and landed here. It has its own lounge and several different banks of lockers, all with central benches and plenty of space, surrounding a main corridor with make-up stations and mirrors–wall-to-wall carpeted and nicely appointed, I might add. Befitting the space, the lockers are quite large, and you can take as many as you need because they are self-locking upon entry of a code of your choosing. That said, you really don’t need to bring much. Provisions abound: towels, toiletries, personal care products, hair dyers, a clothing steamer, and more. I’ve been tempted to stop off here just to pull myself together.

Downstairs, still within the locker room, it gets even better. As you would expect of such an expanse, there are plenty of bathrooms and showers (all private and with amazing pressure). Keep going and you come to the main attraction: the giant hot tub. I have to build in extra time for my workouts to allow for a soak. The Jacuzzi area has lounge chairs and a steam room should you need other ways to relax.

If you are able to tear yourself away from the locker room, you don’t have far to travel to the pool area. You’ll find a brightly lighted, somewhat warm, shallow, 25-yard pool with an on-deck shower, plenty of towels and swim toys, and nary a hair ball. The only thing I’d add is a second pace clock for the far end of the pool. The catch is that it’s just three and a half lanes, meaning slow, slower, and even slower lanes for splitting or circle swimming plus a skinny lane for just one swimmer at a time. Markings on the bottom address every possible configuration, such that there are no fewer than ten Ts on the wall!

As at the nearby JCC, a wall of windows provides a classic Upper West Side view of apartments, rooftops, and water towers. The sun shines in directly at certain times, piercing the water and adding a wonderful energy.

Meanwhile, above head, there’s a very sensible novelty. Instead of backstroke flags, there are blue lines painted right onto the ceiling. It is such a simple solution, I’m amazed I’ve never seen this before. The only problem is that I sometimes forget to look for the line, especially if I haven’t been here for a while, so I’ve had some close calls with the wall.

The aquatics staff is very hands-on, moving people among lanes to best allocate the space and alerting you with foot taps if there’s a change in your lane’s swim pattern. Most of the time, I appreciate this, but on days with a lot of turnover I’d rather just keep circling uninterrupted.

Speaking of the staff, this place has a lot, and they are truly service-minded. They’ll go out of their way to answer questions, show you things, and generally make sure you are enjoying your experience. I’ve never seen anything like it! Many of the other members seem pretty accustomed to this level of treatment, and they are the better for it. No grumps here.

I’ve only just begun to explore the rest of the facility: nap mind-body studios, wifi-enabled lounge, cafe, large roof deck, machine rooms, and the like. You could spend a lot of time here and not be lacking for anything.

So, how do you get in? If you swam an NYC Swim event this season, you have a guest pass that is good until the end of the month. Go. Now. NYC Swimmers were also able to pay $15 to use the pool for qualifying swims this past season, and with luck that arrangement–and my good fortune–will continue.

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