40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#107: Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center

on January 5, 2022

Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan
Configuration: 4 lanes x 20 yards
Fee: NYC Rec membership required

Sorry for not telling you sooner, but it was free to get a one-year membership to all NYC rec centers up through the end of the year. I got my membership in November and first used it on December 30 at the Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center. Coincidentally, that was the last day to get the free membership, so the lobby was packed with New Yorkers who love a good deal.

I normally avoid 20-yard pools, but times are tough and this one has extra meaning due to its namesake, “Trudy” Ederle (1905-2003), arguably New York’s greatest swimmer. Olympic gold medalist, world record holder, English Channel and New York Harbor pioneer and record setter, swim goggle and bathing suit innovator, Ederle has many claims to fame. The first woman to be honored by a ticker-tape parade, upon the occasion of her return from her successful English Channel swim, she is no longer well known outside swim circles. (Here’s a good book if you want to learn more.)

photo: fanfare for Trudy
Overlooking the pool, you’ll find some historical images. This one captures some of the fanfare that greeted Trudy upon her return to New York after she swam the English Channel and dusted the (male) record.

Good for New York, then, for renovating and renaming this early 1900s bathhouse in her honor several years ago. She lived nearby but probably didn’t train here – London Terrace was more her scene – and this is now home base for city lifeguards.

Things were as good as they could be for my swim: nice vibe, good water temperature and chemical balance, ample natural light. Nice to see pool covers at the ready, too, for improved energy efficiency.

I had to circle swim part of the time in one of those nice wide end lanes. It’s just a bit funny for lap swimming because of several quirks:

  • The pool shape is actually an octagon rather than a rectangle, as the corners aren’t flush.
  • The shallow end has a trough sticking out from the wall just under water level, requiring mindfulness during flip turns.
  • The three other sides of the pool have brass (?) railings just above water level.
  • There are no lane markings on the bottom save for the border around the edge. There are, however, cables above the pool to help you stay straight while backstroking.

The short length was actually perfect for me given that I’d been out of the water nearly two weeks to limit Omicron’s chances of crashing my holidays; Riverbank’s looong-course setup felt too daunting. The impulse to try some butterfly kicked in, as it often does in short pools. I’m not sure I’ll be back due to both the length and the schedule, but I’m glad to have paid my respects and to be able to memorialize this pool here.

Pool view from the Ederle Playground (outside). I like the steel trusses and all the windows, among other features. Are the metal railings just for use in hanging out?

One response to “#107: Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center

  1. […] #107: Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center Jan […]

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