NEW YORK—”We’re going to count to 10, and then you can jump in. But don’t jump in before we reach 10.”
And on 10, they jumped.
On a beautiful summer day, with the sun beaming down, New Yorkers gathered at Greenpoint in Brooklyn to celebrate the re-opening of historic McCarren Pool.
“It’s cold!” exclaimed Justin Syda, smiling from the clear blue water. Syda, a student at P.S. 270 who swims in the citywide public swimming league, was accompanied by several friends from his team. .
“We’ve been waiting for three hours,” said one of Syda’s friends.
McCarren Pool has a storied past as one of 11 new pools opened throughout the city in 1936, under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. Built in inner-city neighborhoods, the pools offered swimming outside of the Hudson and East Rivers, which both had poor water quality.
City Pools Open for Summer
A total of 55 free outdoor pools opened around the city Thursday, and will be open through Labor Day, 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
McCarren Park and Pool closed in 1984 and stayed abandoned until 2005, when it became a venue for events such as concerts. The pool was rebuilt through $50 million funding from the city’s PlaNYC initiative.
“The city made a good choice,” Richard Modzelewski said. Originally from Poland, Modzelewski moved to the neighborhood almost 30 years ago. “I love it.”
Modzelewski’s six-year-old daughter and her friend Olivia danced around the pool deck after having their picture taken. “Let’s go in!” Sarah exclaimed, smiling.
For a spell, kids had the pool to themselves. Later, adults (mostly parents) began venturing in.
Edmund Duszkiewicz stood on the side, filling a small plate with food the Parks Department brought for the celebration. He reminisced about being at the pool decades ago, with his children, before it closed. He described a drowning incident, animatedly, recalling that few—if any—lifeguards were on patrol back then. About a dozen lifeguards watched the swimmers on Thursday.
“In the 1930′s, 500 people a year drowned in city waters,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said. “These pools were built to help save lives, and to help people who want to swim, and to make it a better city.” Now, besides the lifeguards and dozens of pools, the city offers free swimming lessons.
Before its closure, events such as boxing matches took place in McCarren Pool’s facilities. Now the restored recreation center features a gym, basketball court, dance studio, and other community spaces.“Thanks to a marvelous design by Rogers Marvel [Architects], it’s once again going to be the center of neighborhood life for Williamsburg and Greenpoint,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended the opening ceremony.
A woman and her two children walked on one of the nearby streets, heading toward the pool, which is bordered by Lorimer, Leonard, and Bayard Sts., and Driggs Ave. “We made it!” exclaimed one of her children, seeing the pool’s exterior. “And all of Greenpoint is flocking,” his mother observed.