40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Summer Is Saved? One Month Until Pools

Welcome to K-PoolSummer has heated up, and there’s finally some relief in sight. The city’s beaches all gain lifeguards tomorrow, and in another month we’ll have some pools! The announcement promises 15 by August 1, but wouldn’t it be nice if those were lowball figures? And maybe since we’re getting a late start, the pools can stay open into the fall?

The promised watering holes span a diverse collection of neighborhoods in the five boroughs and include some 40 Pool favorites:

However, it’s also missing some other favorites including many of the city’s biggest pools that would best accommodate social distancing. Thomas Jefferson, Lasker, and Red Hook, I’m thinking of you.

If the full complement of pools serves almost 2 million New Yorkers, we can expect that having fewer than a third of the total available for about half the season will only cool off a few hundred thousand of us — and cost around $2 million or .2 percent of the NYPD budget reduction. I hope we can do better than that.

Look for more details from the city tomorrow.





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NYC Pools: No News Is Bad News

photo: empty pool

John Jay Park Pool, June 11, 2020

New York City is now in phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, and Governor Cuomo has said it’s OK for pools to open, but there are no signs that our pools will serve us this summer. It’s awfully hot these days, and in any other year this would be the magical time that we first dip into shockingly cool city pools — just when we can’t wait any longer.

Many experts have written and spoken about the importance of this vital cooling infrastructure, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t budged.

Under normal times, our beaches would have already been open for a month. Instead, swimmers are rising extra early to have their swims done by 9 a.m., which is when ticketing starts. We know that lifeguards have been training, and there is snow fencing up on the Coney Island boardwalk possibly to be used to limit access in the service of social distancing, but there is no official word about beaches opening either.

Meanwhile, count me one among nearly 2 million extremely frustrated and hot New Yorkers.

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Experts Urge Opening the Pools

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!


Open the Outdoor Pools This Summer

Marcus Garvey Pool

The mayor’s coronavirus-inflicted “wartime” budget proposes to save money and limit disease transmission by, among other measures, not opening the New York City’s outdoor pools and beaches this summer. I’ve thought long and hard about this dreadful possibility and hereby submit my plea for opening the pools. You may suspect that this is a knee-jerk reaction, so please allow me to convince you of why pools are so important:

  1. New York gets really, really, hot in the summer — and it’s been getting even hotter. July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet. New Yorkers who don’t have second homes in which to wait out the virus will need places to cool off.
  2. Unlike the beaches, which require significant travel for many people to get to them, outdoor pools are spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods. There are 53 in total, and they can serve nearly 2 million New Yorkers in a typical summer. If we are still limited in our travels, pools will be more easily reachable by many people than the beaches.
  3. Chlorinated pools prevent transmission of the virus, and believe you me the city pools are chlorinated.
  4. Operations could be adjusted based on public health guidelines. For example, we could skip using the often-crowded locker rooms (except for bathroom access) and enter directly onto the pool deck in order to stay more spread out. It works in Philadelphia, so why not here? This could save money and allow New Yorkers to exercise their creativity in fashioning cover-ups for walks to and from the pool. To further limit crowding, we could restrict usage at certain times such as by gender or age so people can plan accordingly.
  5. Operating the pools costs only $12 million out of a $90 billion budget.
  6. The outdoor pools are free for all comers, which is especially important given the massive unemployment and other economic hardships wrought by the pandemic here in its current epicenter.
  7. As key pieces of communities’ social infrastructure, pools will help New Yorkers repair the wounds of isolation and loss and ease into new ways of safely sharing public space.

There are many other benefits to pools in normal times as well. Please share your thoughts in the comments.