40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Outdoor Season Preview

on June 25, 2015

New York City’s outdoor pools open on Saturday. I’m looking forward to many of the same treats as last summer: home base at Thomas Jefferson Park Pool, omnipresent lap lanes and weekend food trucks in Red Hook, occasional social swims at Lasker Pool in Central Park, which was green earlier in the week but is enticingly blue now. I prefer early bird lap swim (starting July 6, 2015), and at other times I triple check that I have my lock so as to not get turned away by the pool staff. I can’t stress enough the importance of adhering to the Parks pool rules.
view to the High Bridge water tower
plaque about poolSo what’s new this season? A new way to get to Highbridge Park Pool, for one. New York City’s oldest bridge–built as an aqueduct in the mid-nineteenth century–the High Bridge is also the newest byway for pedestrians and cyclists, having just reopened after being off limits for more than 40 years. It’s beautiful and sure to help many Bronxites get to the pool in Manhattan. I’ve been turned away at Highbridge Park Pool due to arriving too close to closing time, and in fact I was also shooed off the bridge before closing time the other night, but I’ll try again this summer. I at least managed to visit the splashy Splash House (and meet the rec center’s orange tabby mouser-in-chief) during Open House New York last fall.

I thought we might have a longer pool season to celebrate, but it’s looking like just the beach season will be extended until mid-September. The beaches already open more than a month before the pools, so this change heightens the disparity. It’s too bad. I’ve certainly been known to swim at “closed” beaches, but a drained pool is a no-go.

Meanwhile, pools have been in the news of late due to a yet another racially charged, overpoliced situation in Texas. Jeff Wiltse’s Contested Waters documents the changing norms around pool use and shows how pool segregation became completely commonplace, setting the stage for exactly this type of incident. One of this blog’s followers also recommends a children’s book relating to pool discrimination experienced by Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, and I plan to check that out.

Mindful of this troubled history and the contemporary situation, what can we do to ensure that pools are welcoming to all? Use them! While there, be sure to thank the staff, politely heed the regulations (provided they are reasonable and fairly enforced), and swim with, play with, and chat with people whose skin color is different from your own.

7 responses to “Outdoor Season Preview

  1. Kathy Langdon says:

    Always enjoy your great writing!

  2. Sylvia Mueller says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I had a great time last summer swimming at Red Hook.

  3. davidrohlfing says:

    Love this commentary. Thanks!

  4. Hannah says:

    RIP Sammy Lee. The obituary tells much more of the story than did the children’s book. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/sports/sammy-lee-dies-asian-american-olympic-gold.html?_r=0

  5. David Handelman says:

    Did you ever make it back to Highbridge Pool? I don’t see it elsewhere in the blog. I finally did just this weekend after being away most of the summer and it was magical (and, post Labor Day, empty~!) Now it’s closed of course. It was featured in “In The Heights”

  6. Hannah says:

    Yes, I’ve visited Highbridge a few times. However, I’ve never been able to swim laps there, due to its popularity and the lack of a dedicated lap space. Thus, its absence from my blog.

    • David Handelman says:

      They don’t do the morning/evening lapswim program of the other city pools? Sad. I was able to swim pretty freely for an hour on the final Friday and Sunday of the season.

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