40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Excelsior: NYC’s State-Run Outdoor Pools Open

on July 3, 2020
Roberto Clemente State Park pool

Roberto Clemente State Park pool, August 2008.

Hallelujah, the outdoor pools at Riverbank State Park in West Harlem (Manhattan) and Roberto Clemente State Park in Morris Heights (Bronx) opened with scant notice today! Both are offering two daily, ticketed rec swim sessions. Our beloved stalwart Riverbank will also have two one-hour lap swim sessions in the morning seven days a week starting Monday. Preregistration is required for those slots and is only available to current card-holders; I got the instructions this afternoon and hope I make the cut for two doses of chlorine next week.

Pool addicts have a commuting challenge in store: Both facilities are operating without locker rooms; as I suggested early on in this darn pandemic, so swimmers have to arrive dressed to swim with little else. Riverbank has limited outdoor showers and restrooms, and one hopes Roberto Clemente does too. Masks are required for everyone out of the water, and no bags can be left on deck. I look forward to the fashion creativity that emerges from these constraints.

Riverbank’s outdoor pool is a standard 6 lanes x 25 yards. Roberto Clemente’s is much bigger — probably 25 meters x 50 meters. My notes from my only visit there, in 2008, comment on its beautiful location on the east shore of the Harlem River and its red lines on the bottom. (It’s been renovated since, so perhaps the color of the lane markings has changed.) My party of four had the entire place to ourselves, and I bet that will be possible in the morning hours later in the summer. Judging from the park website, it now has a fantastic-looking splash zone too.

Capacity will be reduced from pre-COVID limits to facilitate social distancing. I’m sure the pools will be very popular and appreciated this hot holiday weekend. As summer stretches on, my prediction is that attendance will taper off, making a trip to the pool more of a sure thing.

The more scientists and medical experts figure out about COVID, the greater the evidence that outdoor swimming is safe and physical fitness is beneficial. Let’s all do our part to keep our time at the pool out of the water safe as well, and please be sure to thank the lifeguards, attendants, managers, and other people who are staffing and sanitizing the facilities.

Finally, a word of thanks to the Empire State for providing this vital cooling and social infrastructure! The full list of newly open state outdoor pools is here. Ever upward.


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