40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#96: Asphalt Green Battery Park City

photo: deep end of pool as seen from behind training pool

Location: Battery Park City, Manhattan

Configuration: 6 x 25 yards

Usual fee: $35 drop-in

Asphalt Green’s Battery Park City outpost was a long time coming. The Battery Park City Authority awarded the contract back in 2006, choosing Asphalt Green’s more expensive but more lucrative proposal over that from the YMCA of Greater New York. A target opening date of 2011 was set.

photo: entrance on North End Avenue

Entrance on North End Avenue.

BPCA leadership changed, the contract negotiation was revisited, and it looked like a 2012 opening was possible . . . and then along came Sandy. The superstorm hit hard in Lower Manhattan, and this facility was one of many casualties. Subsequent repairs and politicking added more than another year to the project, which finally opened in June 2013. Battery Park TV has the complete blow-by-blow for those interested in a lesson in civics and real estate.

After all those delays, it took me another few years to finally check out the pool. My lack of enthusiasm for the Upper East Side location and the existence of an identically configured but far more affordable Stuyvesant Community Center pool two blocks away are partly to blame. Luckily, a swim meet this past Sunday evening provided an easy, social, cheaper-than-drop-in opportunity to visit this pool.

photo: windows on west side of pool

Check out all the windows in this below-grade pool. Here’s the west view looking toward the World Financial Center and through the also well-fenestrated machine room. The upper-level windows on the east side (above me as I took this picture) allow passersby on North End Avenue to gaze in.

My assessment? While it probably would have been better for the community at large if a Y had opened here, it’s better for swimmers to have another Asphalt Green-run pool. It’s just your basic six-lane, 25-yard rectangle, but the water was deliciously cool even on this very hot afternoon with the sun streaming in and dozens of swimmers churning up the water and hanging out on deck. (One complaint: no chairs.) The staff and volunteers handled the meet operations very efficiently, and the adjacent movable-bottom, warm-water pool keep the members’ little kids happy.

photo: starting blocksBest of all were the starting blocks, a feature I don’t usually review. These had large, very gently sloped platforms, a great no-slip surface, and a step on the side for ease of ascent. The backstroke holds were nice and high, too. All in all, I’m convinced these represented the latest and greatest in block design.

Unlike at the uptown location, the locker rooms do not differentiate between members and guests, meaning that there are towels, shampoo, conditioner, and other well-stocked product dispensers for all comers. You should have heard the squeals of delight in the women’s locker room as the swimmers discovered this abundance.

blurry photo: Janet and Hannah

Pool pals. Photo by TNYA member Stan.

The “pentathlon” meet, consisting of five back-to-back sprint events, was quite a departure from my long-distance comfort zone. Fortunately, Janet joined me on the heels of her recent competition in Miami in both pool and synchro events, and there were a couple other TNYA members participating as well. Looking at the heat sheets, Janet and I learned that we were both the only entrants in our respective age groups, so any thoughts of just doing the warm-up and then ducking out were replaced by the idea of “winning” all five events.

I swam them all–50s of each stroke and then a 100 individual medley–and was pleased to beat my seed times in three of the events. The fact that I missed two reassured me that I wasn’t sandbagging. The atmosphere was low-key and welcoming, and there were more than a few novices giving it a go. There was also some seriously good swimming for those paying attention. All and all, a great little event courtesy of AGUA Masters and meet director Jack Fabian.

I can’t say what it would be like during regular lap swimming here, and $35 is steep for a 25-yard box, but the light is great, the lanes are wide, and the water’s cool–and that’s a lot more than you often get at New York City pools. Plus, did I mention the free conditioner?

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Piscine Blomet a Paris

Lisa Lisa’s European vacation was not limited to Munich. Ever the diligent pool tourist, she also traveled to Paris and filed the following report. (To all other pool tourists and would-be correspondents out there, yes, 40 Pools welcomes guest entries from you, too!)

long view of the pool

Photo courtesy of TNYA member Ed, who also visited Paris recently.

Location: Rue Blomet, Paris, France (15th Arrondissement)

Configuration: Five 50-meter lanes, subject to rearrangement

Fee: €3, approximately $3.20

According to the New York Times, Paris has 38 municipal pools, but I only managed to visit one during my whirlwind trip to France. However, what I lost in quantity I made up for in quality.

After saying auf Wiedersehen to the Olympia Schwimmhalle, I took a side trip to visit TNYA mates John and Mingwei, who are halfway through a three-year Paris posting. And whenever/wherever TNYAs get together, there is swimming to be had.

sign: Paris Piscines BlometOn my first day in France, Mingwei and I walked over to their local pool, the Piscine Blomet. (John claimed to have to work. However; given the number of times I have seen them in the pool together, I still hold that the boys are only in possession of one suit between them.)

The Piscine Blomet is trés magnifique, a five-lane, 50-meter Parisian beauty. Entry is obtained for a mere €3, with another €1 required for changing room deposit. (Note to self: I owe Mingwei €1.) The locker room, as in Germany, is co-ed.

France’s national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité is nowhere more evident than in this pool. With one lane set aside for the local team, and another strangely formatted into two 25-meter halves (see top image, left), the remaining three lanes were available to anyone, regardless of speed or ability. My lane-mates included a grand-mère, two débutants, one backstroker inorganisé, and that aggressive triathlete guy you find in every pool. Mingwei opted for the 25-meter area, knowing it was less populated.

Getting by anyone was accomplished via passing, turning, swimming over, swimming under, or any combination thereof. This was common, and expected. The traditional foot-touch signal must have lost meaning in translation, as this rendered no response at all.

As someone who is usually the slowest in the lane, I did experience un petit frisson in passing so many fellow swimmers. However, this quickly wore off, and I debated the option of joining Mingwei in the 25-meter area. I’ve followed him in the lane for years, after all, and can attest that it is a comfortable place to be. But before I could make the move to the familiar territory, the gendarme blew the whistle and we were required to clear the pool.

Mingwei promised croissants for breakfast, and so begins a typical day in Paris. C’est la vie!

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Throwback Thursday: Olympia Schwimmhalle

Inspired by posts covering the pools from the Sydney and Montreal Olympic Games, pool tourism comrade Lisa Lisa petitioned for a guest spot to cover her favorite competition venue, the Olympia Schwimmhalle in Munich. I was more than happy to oblige! I love the architecture of this place, which I’ve only seen from a bus window–and from knockoffs like Vassar College’s pool. Her post exemplifies one of my favorite themes, namely, what lasting memories pools make. Future guest entries welcome!

snow-covered SchwimmhalleLocation: Olympiapark, Munich, West Germany (in 1985)/Germany (in 2016)

Configuration: 9-lane 50-meter pool, with separate platform and springboard diving area

Fee: see below

Germany has hosted the Olympic Games twice, in Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972, and neither the XI nor the XX Olympiad was without incident. The 1936 Olympics were the first to be televised, and the leader at the time manipulated the media to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy. (Sounds familiar? No comment.) In an effort to counteract this negativity, the 1972 Olympics strove toward an ideal of openness and freedom, unfortunately leaving the athletes’ village open to a terrorist attack. This was also televised. The world watched it all, and I was no exception.

As a gymnast, swimmer (see pool #13), and Fräulein, I was obsessed by these Olympic Games, and the competition at Munich was tremendous. Gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the games (at age 17; practically geriatric). Mark Spitz went on a medal-winning streak that was not topped until 2008. The East Germans won everything–and later got busted for it. And I inaugurated a fantasy of swimming in an indoor venue that wasn’t dark, cold, or dingy.

Munich Schwimmhalle front doorMy fantasy was fulfilled in 1985, when my sister and I made a pilgrimage to the Olympia Schwimmhalle while I was participating in a junior year abroad. Munich is a city that has truly Munich Schwimmhalle price listmade use of its Olympic venue, and many local masters’ teams are lucky enough to call the Schwimmhalle their home. Visitors are welcome, and my sister–also a member of the esteemed Sandpiper Swim Team (and now a bona fide pool tourist)–and I were excited to check it out. My picture is blurry (likewise my memory), but as a college student on a budget, I can’t imagine we paid more than 10 Deutschmarks some 30 years ago.

I can say with certainty that at the time, it was the most spectacular pool in which I had ever swum. It snowed the day we arrived, covering the “sails” of the venue with a light dusting and providing a picture-perfect Bavarian image (upper right).

The pool itself had more than 3 lanes, a rarity in our world, and to be able to swim and see the light of day concomitantly was a feat previously unheard of.Olympia Schwimmhalle interior

hair dryer at perfect height for author

Editor’s note: A hair dryer that is the right height for Lisa Lisa may be low for many of us.

sisters in the locker room

Pool tourists investigate the co-ed locker rooms, 1985 style.

The hair dryers were at the perfect height, something I have been unable to find anywhere else. And what’s that guy doing in the women’s locker room? As it turned out, the locker room was co-ed, with patrons paying a deposit for a private changing cubby in a large hall, open to anyone.

Finally, the Olympic gods/German engineers ensured that the water temperature was perfect, the lockers pristine, and the pool Band-aid and hairball free. Yes, 1985 was a very good year.

But so was 2016–for pool tourism, at least. Remember when I said the Olympic Schwimmhalle was the most spectacular pool in which I have even swum? Well, it still is, and I know for sure because I recently popped over to the Schwimmhalle for a repeat visit.Olympia Schwimmhalle today

sign in 2016two photos from 2016: hair dryers and locker roomNot much has changed since 1985. (Well, they did get a new sign, at right.) The pool was as clean and beautiful as I remembered. The grounds were immaculate and accessible. The locker rooms were still co-ed. The painted lane lines were as dark and clear as the days when Mark Spitz stroked over them. The hair dryers remained at the perfect height, albeit more modern.

One thing that changed is the price, since Germany bid auf Wiedersehen to the Deutschmark in 1999. The current price, €3.20, is the equivalent to $3.50.

In keeping with my travel trend, I look forward to returning to the Olympia Schwimmhalle in another 31 years.

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#94 and #95: Olympic Training and Competition Pools, Centre Sportif, Montreal

Competition pool

Location: Olympic Park, Montreal

Configuration: Two 50-meter pools, one with 5 lanes (the training pool) and one configured with oodles of 25-meter lanes across (the competition pool)

Fee: CA$6.50 plus tax, or a bit under US$5

Many of my fellow Americans are clamoring for information about Canada, and 40 Pools is here to assure you that there is good pool swimming to be had in our friendly neighbor to the north.

How do I know? I visited Montreal last month over the U.S. Columbus Day weekend and swam in the pool complex from the 1976 Olympic Games, now the Centre Sportif. Through researching the schedule I realized that my trip encompassed a national holiday, Action de Grâces–aka Canadian Thanksgiving. This tidbit provided helpful focus to the holiday weekend, and I timed my visit to swim in two pools for the price of one.

The swim competition at the XXI Olympiad benefited from a number of now-standard pool innovations, including an extra lane on either side of the 8 lanes of competition and turbulence-damping gutters to ensure the smoothest swim experience possible. While gymnast Nadia Comaneci was racking up the perfect 10s and the former Bruce Jenner broke his own decathlon records to become the “world’s greatest athlete,” the East German and American women duked things out in the pool. The U.S. women’s only gold came in a dramatic upset in the 4×100 relay [video]. (Host Canada took bronze behind the East Germans.)

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

I was very excited to take in these waters, my second Olympic pool experience. (The first was in Sydney.) Though the weather was dreary, anticipation built as we wandered through the Olympic complex, the first to have its swim hall connected to the Olympic stadium.

My swim started in the training pool, which paralleled the competition pool in a side room. It lacked the bright, inspirational feel of the main pool but had some nice touches such as its tiles and cutaways in the ceiling to reveal the underside of the bleachers. Although I was more rapide than most of the patrons, I placed myself among the moyen, where there was better lane etiquette.

training pool

Training pool

I got in a nice warm-up before this pool closed and we all shuffled over to the main event, the fully renovated competition pool. It’s looking and running great at 40! Cool temperature, crystal-clear water, a nice wall surface, skylights, motivational decor, a view of warm-ups for a diving competition, and my very own lane added up to a perfect swim experience.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool

Banners tout the laurels of the aquatic facilities: 7 pools, more than 9 millions liters of water, and more than 40,000 dives and 1,000 water polo matches per year. With lap lanes open more than 80 hours per week, this is the place to be for Québécois swimmers.

After my swim, we watched a bit more diving–up to 10 meters! We didn’t make it to the exhibit of 40th anniversary Olympic exhibit due to rain and other sightseeing plans. Imagining the excitement was easy enough.

diving pool

Plongeons!

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#93: Community Center at Stuyvesant High School Pool

corner view of poolLocation: Battery Park City, Manhattan

Configuration: 6 x 25 yards

Fee: $15 drop-in

The elite public Stuyvesant High School moved to this location in 1992, not long before I moved to New York. It was criticized for its $150 million price tag–the highest to date for a city school–but I can assure you that none of this expense or subsequent maintenance funding was directed toward the pool locker rooms, which appear to have been installed intact from an earlier era. I’d hoped to take a picture to show you but was thwarted by the woman sitting naked on the bench scraping dead skin off her feet onto the floor. Ew.

Barcelona Olympics pace clock

Further proof of low maintenance expenditures: a pace clock with the 1992 Olympics logo.

Lisa Lisa and I visited this pool–new to both of us–two Fridays ago. We needed some fresh water due to the recent end of outdoor lap swimming in the city pools and Riverbank‘s annual post-Labor Day closure. (Its reopening, which is perhaps tied to the sighting of the new moon, has been rumored to be set for tomorrow.) Regardless, for anyone in search of a no-hassle pool for occasional use, this is a great option. In fact, if you live Downtown and like to swim in the evening, this is the perfect place. Annual membership is just $199 or less for youth, seniors, Battery Park City residents, and military personnel.

Although located within the high school, the Community Center at Stuyvesant High School is run by Battery Park City Parks. Lockers aside, they do a nice job: the water was clean, the temperature pleasant. The only thing I didn’t like was slippery metal at the walls. Some lanes were devoted to coached activity, so lap swimmers squeezed into the others with a bit of disgruntlement. (Yes, we did see another fellow Riverbank regular.) I’d hoped to arrive before sunset but missed out by a few minutes and couldn’t determine the orientation. I’d like to imagine that the water sparkles during daylight hours.

record board

None-too-shabby school records.

Posters around the pool evidenced much school spirit and a bit of confusion. Are the sports teams Penguins, Pirates, or Peglegs? Whatever their name, their records are much faster than my high school team’s.

When told that I was heading to a pool in his neighborhood, a coworker first guessed at two others: Borough of Manhattan Community College or Asphalt Green Battery Park City. Yes, it’s a bit shameful that my pool tourism has so neglected this neighborhood. On the other hand, it’s good to have more options.

locker room entry

Don’t let this sleek, clean entryway fool you. The lockers are a time capsule from decades gone by.

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Pool Power

sign: pool open until Sept. 11Attention, attention: Report to your nearest outdoor pool immediately. The Parks Department extended the outdoor pool season by a week–until Sunday, September 11–at all the big pools! Designated lap swim sessions ended last week, but many pools are empty enough for unimpeded laps during the regular hours. Enjoy!

As you soak in the ambiance, here is some food for thought. It is back-to-school season, after all.

  1. In Iceland, there are pool anthropologists who travel across the country to study pools for academic purposes. Many of their beautiful selections overlap with my own, but I clearly need to make a return trip–and consider a career change.
  2. In Australia, pools are so important to the national culture that they are the basis of the country’s Venice Architecture Biennale pavilion. Another return trip and career change possibility.
  3. It’s not just architects who are inspired by pools. Check out these artist-designed pool experiences. LA is now on my travel list as well.
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#92: Pound Ridge Town Pool

Pound Ridge pool complexLocation: Pound Ridge, Westchester, New York

Configuration: 6 x 25 meters in the lap pool

Fee: Guest of resident

The Pound Ridge Town Pool is one of those places that feels disconnected from the world, as if the sky here were perpetually blue and the water the same, just the right temperature, and never crowded. If you are able to get in either by being a resident or a resident’s guest, you can swim, lounge, eat, socialize, and play table tennis and air hockey here to your heart’s content.

10 pass guest card

me and dad

Me and my dad.

I visited with my friend Naomi and her mother, Ethel, over Labor Day weekend. A regular all summer, Ethel had three guest visits left on her pool card, and she kindly shared them with the two of us and my dad. We chose partially shaded lounge chairs by the nearly empty lap pool and whiled away a couple of hours. At some point a pool pal of Ethel’s joined us. I swam just 1,000 meters, realizing in the process that the pool was a wee bit longer than 25 yards. The rest of our group did some laps too, some for the first time in years and years. That’s how otherworldly the experience was!

The lap pool is also the diving and competition pool. Just two lane lines were in, but the lifeguards kindly let us overflow into the rest of the pool as needed, even though it was signed as closed. No problems here. Most other people frolicked in the shallow pool and lounged closer to the snack bar.

Naomi’s family moved here when she was in elementary school. She swam here in the summers during her childhood but hadn’t been back for ages. Still, she was able to find some names she recognized in the trophy case. The 1970s high dive records would seem to be especially secure given that the high dive has been removed. Back in the day, she said, there was always a long line for the high dive and people really got the business if they didn’t jump. Somehow I can’t imagine anyone getting the business here now.

 trophy case

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#90 & #91: Eriksdalsbadet

empty pool

Eurogames competition pool. Photo by Janet.

Location: Skanstull, Stockholm

Configuration: Indoor 50 x 25- and 25 x 25-meter pools with lots and lots of lanes. More pools outdoors that I didn’t swim in.

Fee: 90 kronor for a regular visit, lots more for Eurogames meet entry

Dear Eriksdalsbadet,

Please accept my apology for taking so long–three months!–to write about your wonders. You have so much to offer. If only we had met under different circumstance, it would have been magical. Unfortunately, Eurogames got in our way.

highway over Eriksdalsbadet

Just like the highway above it, Eriksdalsbadet goes on and on. Hints of its nearly 100-year-old history as a swim site are scant.

It’s awesome that the tradition of swimming on your site goes back to the closed waterworks in the 1920s, although I wish there were more traces left from those days. Still, I get that the Swedish national team needed a cutting-edge training facility–and how exciting was it that your very own Sarah Sjöström was off in China breaking world records during our visit?! (Do your pros really like the water that warm? It sure got hot with the afternoon and then evening sun streaming in.)

I was psyched to beat some of my times from Iceland ever so slightly during the three-day competition. True, I was wearing a $190 technical suit thanks to my team’s new sponsorship deal with Speedo, but I’m sure your infinity gutters, deep water, and normal ceiling played a role.

48500010

Speed slide (right) and lazy river slide.

The tiered showers in the locker room are a great idea–people’s heights vary, so why shouldn’t shower heights vary, too? I also really enjoyed the water slides, once they reopened after some undisclosed incident the first day. The split clock added a whole new dimension to our sliding. Try as I might, I could not break 9 seconds to match my teammates’ times on the fastest slide. Perhaps my technical suit was not optimized for this purpose?

Yonder outdoor pool and grassy lawn.

An early morning view of yonder 50-meter outdoor pool and giant grassy lawn, which all filled up with Stockholmers on these beautiful days.

How about the outdoor pools? I only made it as far as the lawn, since we’d been told that our meet entry did not cover the outdoor part of the complex and I was all pooled out anyway. The natives sure seemed to enjoy themselves out there–and the warm, sunny weather that came with us to Stockholm.

Of course, the competition was fierce. Our TNYA contingent alone was more than 80 swimmers, divers, and water polo players strong. The combination of many of my favorite people traveling to one my favorite places to participate in one of my favorite activities seemed like a guaranteed success.

25-meter pool

25-meter pool, used for warm-ups and cool-downs during our meet.

The lead-up to Eurogames–a major international competition that required signup months in advance and significant travel by most participants–should have given me pause. First the meet was going to be four days, then it switched to three. The registration site flummoxed some of my very intelligent teammates and me. (In fact, I almost got pulled from a couple events due to not having seed times with my entries. I thought I had entered times, mind you, and would have gladly provided them had anyone asked in the intervening months.) Important details such as the event schedule were scant and poorly communicated. All along, though, I reassured myself that everything would go off without a hitch in ever-so-organized Sweden. How organized? This is a place where all the bus stations have countdown clocks and the grocery store check-out conveyors are split by a chute so that a customer who is slow to gather her wares does not impede the person behind her in line. For example.

Smörgåsbord

I swam extra-hard in my 1500 so I wouldn’t be late for this smörgåsbord at my favorite building in Stockholm, Stadshuset. It was a model of efficiency, with hundreds of people enjoying Swedish delicacies and hospitality simultaneously. Photo by Janet.

Things went downhill as the meet drew near. Just a couple days before the start, the meet director realized that the time allocated was impossibly short given the number of competitors. How this was not clear from the data the moment registration closed is beyond me. The “solution” at this late stage was to drop the slowest and no-time entrants from all events and to limit options for distance freestyle swimmers such as myself. Many participants and teams raised a ruckus about these changes, given the long tradition of inclusion in our competitions, and so the schedule was changed yet again and all entrants were reinstated. The catch was that the meet would run loooong, a situation exacerbated by failure to implement various efficiencies such as fly-over starts. Also, the reconfigured schedule had the 800 and 1500 back-to-back. I decided that would be too much at the end of a loooong day so did just the 1500 with the consolation that my 800 split would be recorded. As far as I can tell, that did not happen.

In a different setting–a developing nation, or a culture less known for precision–I would have taken it all in stride. However, because I hold Sweden to such a high standard, because I wanted more free time to enjoy the rest of the city, and because 80 of my friends were watching and griping, the failures large and small were major disappointments.

But, like I said, you’re a nice pool. With a few months’ perspective, I’m clearly still frustrated that the experience could have been even better, but those are the breaks. There were plenty of highlights, and I’m very, very glad to have had the excuse to check out some new water, swim in a technical suit, and visit some old friends and old haunts along with one of Stockholm’s newest museums.

Next time, I’ll make sure that we have more quality time together (not quantity). Until then, thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Hannah

11012813_10153667536549610_6677614293636979265_n_abba

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#89: Vanadisbadet

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vanadisbadet2014.jpg

Courtesy Vanadisbadet 2014

Location: Vasastan, Stockholm

Configuration: 4 striped 25-meter lanes

Fee: 90 kronor, just under $11 at the current, strong exchange rate

The day before the meet, I was overdue for some pool time. Following the recommendation of a local, I wandered into a hilly park in central Stockholm for 7:00 p.m. lap swimming at Vanadisbadet.

The time was the same as night owl lap swimming in Manhattan, but that was about the only similarity. There was no drama at the transition time from open swim to laps, and the existence of both lockers and lifeguards was subtle if they were in fact there at all. Remarkably, even in this Nordic climate, the pool has a much longer season than New York’s outdoor pools, which closed last Monday even though our summer heat continues. (Yes, I am whining.) Vanadisbadet’s season runs from May 1 until September 15, and lap swimming–“motion” or exercise swimming–is offered daily from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

Like so many of my favorite pools, this one dates to the 1930s, 1938 to be precise. Stockholm’s first outdoor electrically heated pool, Vanadis takes its name from its host park, named for the goddess of fertility, also known as Freja. A popular swim place for decades, it closed in 2007. Various plans were floated in the years that followed, but ultimately a simple renovation prevailed, and the pool reopened for the 2014 season. The Google Earth view led me to expect water slides, however, that must be an older picture because they are not there.

What is there? Two smaller pools in addition to the lap pool, all about the same warmish temperature; beautiful outcroppings from a former quarry; lounge chairs for rent; a café; poolside showers aplenty; and great views over the city. The evening sun made long shadows across the deck.

My swim was lovely. The few other people who swam in my lane all kept a good pace and showed proper pool etiquette. I stretched out about a mile and decided that was enough, given the upcoming early morning starting the first of three days of the meet.

If you make a visit, I highly recommend also stopping at the nearby Stadsbibliotek or City Library (1928), a masterpiece by the architect Gunnar Asplund. Its gradually sloping entry, outside and in, transports you into a veritable shrine to books. It was also very exciting to find a room devoted to mysteries, with all of my favorite Swedish authors in their native language.

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#88: Tony Dapolito Recreation Center Outdoor Pool

Village street scapeLocation: Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Configuration: 6 striped 50-foot “lanes”

Fee: Free

I never expected to like the Tony Dapolito Outdoor Pool. Known for being short and crowded, the pool attracted my visit two Fridays ago solely by virtue of its participation in the city’s Early Bird lap swim program–and only after I’d exhausted the rest of the list.

I was in for a pleasant surprise: I thoroughly enjoyed my swim, the company, and the sense of a New York from yesteryear. Tucked so snugly in to a Greenwich Village block that it almost feels like a backyard pool, Dapolito is an old school treasure. Despite its location in one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods, there’s nothing fancy or pretentious about it. What’s more, I felt like a youngster among the small crowd of chlorine addicts.

Keith Haring mural

Lap swimmers swim the short way across, each in his or her own invisible “lane,” gazing upon the 1987 Keith Haring mural at entry and when resting. I loved the colors and sense of whimsy in this large work along the western edge. As the morning progressed, the sun lit up splotches and eventually the whole thing.

Ellen, Hannah, Dapolito entrance

Ellen and I await the magical swim time.

Ellen–who swims here every morning and then hits Asser Levy at the end of the day–was my Dapolito mensch, providing encouragement and patient answers to my countless questions in the week leading up to the swim. She advised arriving well before 7:00 a.m., wearing my swim suit under clothes that can be ripped off in an instant, tucking my swim cap into my top, and nonchalantly hustling through the locker rooms and out to the desk once the doors open. I followed her instructions to a T

The rat race, as she calls it, is for a spot in one of the 6 black-line-marked “lanes,” which you can either swim on top of or in between, meaning there are about 13 of these highly desirable slots. (If this sounds like a recipe for collisions, it is.) Those not early or quick enough can swim sans black lines in the shallow end of the pool or across the diving well if there is enough demand. That’s right, this is one of the few city pools that still has diving.

We waited about 20 minutes out front before the pool opened. It was nice to catch up with Ellen and also meet the reigning champion of NYC lap swimming. My stress from the hustle dissipated a few laps in–yes, I got a spot among the black lines, with belated apologies to any regular I may have displaced–when I realized how fun it was to rack up laps at such a clip. Dapolito is a great place to work on turns and streamlining, since you have so many opportunities to push off the wall. I got down to seven strokes per length and knocked off 200 laps in what seemed like no time.

Although it’s tiny, this pool has WPA origins just like many of my favorite behemoths. Its older, indoor sibling closes for the summer season, but all visitors get to pay their respects and admire its empty beauty on the walk from the locker room.

I don’t find myself in Greenwich Village very often, but if I’m down there again at the right time I would definitely return to this charmer.

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