40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Experts Urge Opening the Pools

on April 30, 2020
Let New Yorkers Swim

K Pool photo by Amanda.

Earlier this month I posted 40 Pools’ first-ever editorial on the importance of opening the city’s outdoor pools this summer. Needless to say, I am also strongly in favor of opening the beaches for many similar reasons. Here are some allied views from respected authorities on this urgent subject.


“If you close those pools, you’re putting 50,000 kids where? On the streets? They’re going to go swimming wherever they can, and they’re going to go into the river and they’re going to go into the lakes and ponds in the parks, and they’re going to open up fire hydrants. When 50,000 kids open up a few thousand fire hydrants, your water pressure suddenly drops and you can’t fight fires. And the kids are playing in the streets and they’re getting hit by cars. So basically what you’re saying by closing pools is it’s OK if a lot of kids die.”

– Former New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, interview with the New York Post, published April 17


“You can’t tell people in a dense urban environment, all through the summer months, we don’t have anything for you to do, stay in your apartment with the three kids, you know? That doesn’t work. There’s a sanity equation here also that we have to take into consideration.”

“People need to know that there’s an opening, there’s a future, there’s hope, that somebody’s doing something. And then you need a relief valve just on a day-to-day basis so people have some relief in their lives, some vent.”

– Governor Andrew Cuomo, April 26 (quoted in the Hill and the New York Times)


“With the fate of summer camp still up in the air, it’s all the more crucial to ensure people have opportunities for recreation.”

“Epidemiologists said that local officials can explore ways of safely opening beaches and pools by controlling density and enforcing social distancing.”

– New York Times, “How to Save Summer 2020” (Sunday editorial), April 26


And then there’s this fictional moment featuring the doctor from The Plague by Albert Camus (1947):

“Do you know,” he said, “what we now should do for friendship’s sake?”

“Anything you like, Tarrou.”

“Go for a swim. It’s one of these harmless pleasures that even a saint-to-be can indulge in, don’t you agree?” Rieux smiled again, and Tarrou continued: “With our passes, we can get out on the pier. Really, it’s too damn silly living only in and for the plague. Of course, a man should fight for the victims, but if he ceases caring for anything outside that, what’s the use of his fighting?”


Once they were on the pier they saw the sea spread out before them, a gently heaving expanse of deep-piled velvet, supple and sleek as a creature of the wild. They sat down on a boulder facing the open. Slowly the waters rose and sank, and with their tranquil breathing sudden oily glints formed and flickered over the surface in a haze of broken lights. Before them the darkness stretched out into infinity. Rieux could feel under his hand the gnarled, weather-worn visage of the rocks, and a strange happiness possessed him. Turning to Tarrou, he caught a glimpse on his friend’s face of the same happiness, a happiness that forgot nothing, not even murder.

They undressed, and Rieux dived in first. After the first shock of cold had passed and he came back to the surface the water seemed tepid. When he had taken a few strokes he found that the sea was warm that night with the warmth of autumn seas that borrow from the shore the accumulated heat of the long days of summer. The movement of his feet left a foaming wake as he swam steadily ahead, and the water slipped along his arms to close in tightly on his legs. A loud splash told him that Tarrou had dived. Rieux lay on his back and stayed motionless, gazing up at the dome of sky lit by the stars and moon. He drew a deep breath. Then he heard a sound of beaten water, louder and louder, amazingly clear in the hollow silence of the night. Tarrou was coming up with him, he now could hear his breathing.

Rieux turned and swam level with his friend, timing his stroke to Tarrou’s. But Tarrou was the stronger swimmer and Rieux had to put on speed to keep up with him. For some minutes they swam side by side, with the same zest, in the same rhythm, isolated from the world, at last free of the town and of the plague.

Rieux was the first to stop and they swam back slowly, except at one point, where unexpectedly they found themselves caught in an ice-cold current. Their energy whipped up by this trap the sea had sprung on them, both struck out more vigorously.

They dressed and started back. Neither had said a word, but they were conscious of being perfectly at one, and the memory of this night would be cherished by them both.


Yes, it’s a metaphor, and, no, I haven’t read the whole book, but it works literally as well. It’s not just the kids who need the pools and beaches. Doctors need them too.

Please share other supportive voices on this subject. Listen up, Mayor Bill!

3 responses to “Experts Urge Opening the Pools

  1. Michael Goldring says:

    Go Hannah! May the voices of sanity prevail!

    • Hannah says:

      Soon after I posted last night I read that Philadelphia is also planning to keep its pools closed all summer. It’s a sad development especially considering that they are much better provisioned with pools than we are in NYC.

  2. […] Experts Urge Opening the Pools Jun […]

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