Bliss. Friends Ayana, 12, Maya, 10, Chelsea, 10, and Nola, 10, jump into the newly renovated pool yesterday afternoon. Like all other outdoor Parks Department pools admission is free. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.) Click on image to enlarge.
On a picture perfect day the mighty McCarren Pool in Green Point Brooklyn roared back into the hearts and minds of Brooklynites yesterday. After nearly three decades of being abandoned the long anticipated reopening arrived and thousands poured into the newly renovated facility on a 90 degree.
For nearly thirty years the the decrepit McCarren Pool stood as a glaring example of municipal neglect after closing in 1983. The facility has been lovingly restored and includes many new features.
$50 million dollars was spent renovating the pool and year-round recreation center. The new facility boasts a 379,500-square-foot pool and accommodates 1500 swimmers, a decrease of 700. It has eight 25-meter lap lanes; spray showers. The pool has been reduced significantly from four Olympic-sized swimming pools to two. The original pool was 54440 square feet and accommodated 2200 swimmers.
The once-glorious diving pool has been replaced by a beach volleyball court.
The project also restored the year-round recreation center. The facility includes, a gymnasium, basketball court, a cardio and strength training fitness center with treadmills, stationary bikes, upper body cardio equipment, weight room, dance studio cardio room and multipurpose community meeting space, computer resource center and game room with board games, ping pong.
The historic bathhouse building and entry arch was preserved and restored. Wood panels recycled from the Coney Island boardwalk are among the decorative features used by the architects.
With McCarren’s re-opening, all 11 pools built by Robert Moses are now back in service.
For most of the glorious day the line snaked down Lorimer Street and around to Bayard Street. The line was filled with people who were excited to experience what the fuss was all about. Many were not even born the last time it was used as a public pool, while for others it was a trip down memory lane.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg presided over the pool and Play Center ribbon cutting ceremony renovation dedication.
"Today is all about the water," Bloomberg said, repeatedly mispronouncing "McClarren" until the crowd corrected him numerous times and an aid whispered into his ear. He readjusted his pronunciation to "McCarren." It seems the Massachusetts native wasn't all familiar with the neighborhood either as he referred to it as Williamsburg.
"McCarren Park Pool has an illustrious past and a bright future. The major investment we’ve made in this renovation will help return the pool and the park to their place at the center of community life for residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint."
Mayor Bloomberg was joined at podium by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Community Board 1 District Manager and the Open Space Alliance chair. (The previous night the Alliance held its annual gala poolside event.)
“Our outdoor pools are officially open for the summer and we are especially proud of our latest addition, the McCarren Pool and Play Center, ” said Benepe.
After the speeches and a countdown, kids jumped into the crystal clear waters and swam to the other side, kicking off the pool's opening as well as officially starting the City's outdoor pool season.
The pool opened to the general public at 12:30pm after the VIP opening ceremony, and it did not disappoint.
When it was time for the pool to open to the general public, Parks Department staff went through the long line to see if people had special needs. An appreciative Martha Fernandez and her family were plucked from the back of the line on Bayard Street around the corner from the entrance and escorted inside.
For the 36-year-old Mrs. Fernandez and her family it was a very special day. She recently had heart bypass surgery and now relies on a wheelchair to get around. Her mother Loardes Rosa pushed her down a gentle slope leading to the pool entrance and delivered her into the refreshing bright blue water. Martha transferred to the grab bars and held on, and took it all in with a big smile.
"It feels great, It's warm," Martha Fernandez exclaimed while trying coax her 5-year-old son Ethan into the pool. She explained it was very hard getting around in the wheelchair on a daily basis and pointed out that so many things are not accessible. She hopes to one day not to need to rely on the chair.
She was brimming with joy with the new facility.
"This is going to be my new spot."
Her mother said she's been preaching for the pool to open for a long time.
"I love it, it's great," she said playing with numerous grandchildren.
An expansive sloped "zero entry" access area, a ramp with grab bars, and two accessibility compliant chair lifts are just a few of the many new ADA compliant features incorporated into the new pool, and adjacent play center facility. Inside the recreation center, bathrooms and community resources rooms are accessible, fitness equipment that allows people who use assistive mobility devices to use it has been installed, as well as to use the upper body cardio equipment according to the Parks Department.
The pool's zero entry is a popular feature.
The promised roof-top cafe has been delayed because funds for an elevator needed to comply with ADA have not been secured. An issue that Parks is pursuing.
Perhaps the most significant and noticeable change is the large ramp built to the left of the building's entrance which now allows people of all abilities to access to the facility for the first time since it the pool and recreational center was first built.
"Public pools are great," said NYC school teacher Melicca McCormick from Bedford-Stuyvesant who came with a fellow teacher and her child.
"They bring together people from all different classes and races. Parks are how we are able to survive in the city. If we didn't have them I don't know what we'd do. I'm so glad my friend dragged me along. We are going to be here all Summer. We don't have air-conditioning. "
The lack of maintenance, proper security, and lack of political will turned the re-opening pool into a battleground that mirrored the city's racial divide. For years activists worked tirelessly to reopen the pool, while some residents worked against them, saying they didn't want "outsiders" (i.e., people of color) flooding the neighborhood and feared the city would not run be able to run the facility adequately.
City Council member Stephen Levin said he wasn't concerned about the racial problems, the lack of maintenance or the security issues that plagued the pool in the past from returning.
"That was before my time. We've come a long away since then. I'm very confident that is will be maintained for generations to come and will be safe for people who use it. As long as I'm in office I will make sure," he added.
He thanked the Bloomberg administration for allocating the funds to restore the facility and added his office had allocated some money as well.
"It seemed impossible when they first started talking about this, but the administration made it a priority, " he said after taking an inaugural dip.
"It's going to become a great destination pool."
The pool will be open from 11 a.m. — 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. — 7 p.m. daily.
Starting July 5th, parents get a break when the adult lap swim program begins. “Early Bird” lap swim hours from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and “Night Owl” lap-swim hours from 7:00 p.m. to dusk . It's one of the City's best kept Summer secrets.
Swimming is free. Annual fees for the Recreation Center are as follows: Adult Membership (Ages 18-61) is $150 per year (it includes access to all 33 recreation centers including all 12 indoor pools, or $100 per year for access to the 21 recreation centers without indoor pools., Senior Membership (Ages 62 and Over), $25 per year for access to all 33 recreation centers including all 12 indoor pools., Youth Membership (17 and Under), Free access to all 33 recreation centers including all 12 indoor pools.
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