Tuesday, March 27, 2012

McCarren Park Pool Set To Reopen June 28th

Testing The Water. The long anticipated reopening of the McCarren Park Pool is set for June 28. $50 million dollars has been spent to renovate the pool and year-round recreation center, as well as to preserve and restore the historic bathhouse building and entry arch. The new pool will accommodate 1,500 swimmers, a decrease of 700. The pool was closed in 1983 and became one of the Parks Department's most public symbols of neglect. The city began renovating the pool in 2009. The pool was filled with water last week to run various tests. (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

By yesterday most of the water had drained.


By Geoffrey Croft

The mighty McCarren Park Pool - shuttered for almost thirty years - is set to reopen on June 28th, city officials confirmed.

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 11:00am that day.

The city hopes to have a "soft opening" of at least one section of the recreation center by Memorial Day according to several city sources.

Water's edge. A large ramp on one side will lead swimmers into the pool. To the right will be the beach pool deck which will be converted into an ice rink during the winter.

A beach volleyball court - under construction (right) - is replacing the once-glorious diving pool. The diving pool was filled in with sand, and concert merchandize was sold on top of it. Expensive condos - many featuring floor-to-ceiling windows - have risen along the streets around the pool in the background.

The $50 million facility boasts a 37,9500-square-foot pool, which will accommodate 1,500 swimmers and eight 25-meter lap lanes; a beach; spray showers; and a restored year-round recreation center with a gym, basketball court, weight room, dance studio, cardio room, and multipurpose community space. Wood panels recycled from the Coney Island boardwalk are among the decorative features.

McCarren Park Rink

Gymnasium being restored. The original indoor recreation center often hosted boxing matches. (Photo: DPR)

The pool has been reduced significantly from four Olympic-sized swimming pools to two. Originally it was 54,440 square feet and accommodated 2,200 swimmers. The once-glorious diving pool has been replaced by a beach volleyball court.

When asked last week if the McCarren Park Pool would be excluded from the pools the administration wants to close two weeks early due to budget cuts, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe paused and chose his words carefully, "That's a safe bet."

The historic pool in McCarren Park (formerly Greenpoint Park) is on the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. It first opened on July 31, 1936, with great fanfare. During the inaugural ceremonies, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia claimed, "No pool anywhere has been as much appreciated as this one."

It was one of 11 giant pools opened in consecutive weeks during the summer of 1936. It was constructed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses under the Works Progress Administration.

View from Lorimer St. complete with trolly cars. (left)

1937 Shot of McCarren Park Pool

McCarren Park Pool - 1937. During the off-season the original pool floor was used for a host of other activities including volleyball. (Photo: Courtesy of the NYC Parks Department)

Four-year-old Ola gets a peek of the soon-to-be-reopened McCarren Park Pool on Friday.

The pool was closed in 1983 and became one of New York's most public symbols of municipal neglect. The once-grand facility was abandoned and used as a shooting gallery for drug users and for the homeless.

The lack of maintenance, proper security, and political will turned the 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.

Over the years, many plans were floated, and funds were even allocated, but in the end the pool remained closed. Recent years brought luxury apartment buildings, and as the area became more gentrified, many said it was only a matter of time before the city would finally restore the pool. In 2005 the abandoned pool hosted a modern-dance performance and then a series of free concerts and other events over the next few years.

"There's been a demand for a pool, but we're not doing this just because people are moving to Williamsburg," said then Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel in 2008. "This also ends a huge civic embarrassment. It's been derelict for 24 years now."

While the pool's re-opening is good news, New York City ranks dead last in the nation for the per-capita provision of public swimming pools.

On a recent afternoon in McCarren Park, Sarah Griffiths, 34, said she's looking forward to taking her three children to the pool. "Everyone in the neighborhood is talking about it."

Raised in Manhattan, Griffiths has lived in Brooklyn since 1996. "It will be great for the kids to have something to do for the summer."

Jaime Lindahl, 33 said she was excited about the upcoming pool opening

"I can't wait to bring her to the pool to wear her out," she said smiling as she pushed a stroller with her two-year-old daughter along Lorimer St. in front of the pool's iconic entrance.

They occasionally use the indoor pool at the Metropolitan Recreation Center on Bedford Avenue, but she said nothing beats a swim in the sunshine.

Stephane Alex, 45, has lived in the area for 15 years. "There's going to be a lot of people using it," he said while watching his three-year-old daughter, Nico, in the playground. "I hope they take care of it."

The park still lacks maintenance, he noted, and the playground equipment could use an upgrade. The children's spray shower regularly get clogged, turning them into cesspool each summer. He hoped the park's resources weren't all going into the pool while other areas were ignored.

Jamie Toll, 37, who manages a nearby bar, linked the pool's reopening to the changing neighborhood.

"The park has come a long way, but it has a long way to go," he said while watching his 3-year-old daughter Paloma in the playground.

"It's great that they renovated it. It's going to be very busy. It was an amazing concert space, but now that I have a child, I prefer a pool."

The facade of the iconic entry arch along Lorimer St. has been cleaned of graffiti and paint, and its windows have been restored. Entry ramps complying with ADA have been installed on both sides. The building’s vast scale and dramatic arches were designed by Aymar Embury II. In 2007 the Landmarks Preservation Commission granted landmark status to the facility.

Monument to Shame. The massive pool complex and year-round facilities were designed to provide recreation, generate employment, and get people's minds off the economy. For decades the City allowed the historic McCarren Park Pool to deteriorate. The pool became a symbol of radical divide. New York City ranks dead last in the provision of public swimming pools for a high density city. (Photo: Maisel/NY Daily News. Below: Forgotten NY )

Ice Rink

McCarren Park Rink

The City is requiring the Rink be open for a minimum of only four hours per day for general session public skating.

Meanwhile plans for a seasonal ice rink are moving along.

On February 1, the Parks Department released an RFP to operate an ice rink on the McCarren Park beach pool deck for twelve years. The rink would be open this season and run from Oct. 15, 2012, to March 30, 2013.

The city is encouraging operators to make the rink as large as possible — up to 80-by-125 feet.

The concession may also include a pro shop and up to three mobile food carts.

The City is requiring the Rink be open for a minimum of only four hours per day for general session public skating, although they will view favorably proposals that include more hours. The concessionaire would also be required to provide a minimum of six hours per week of free youth initiation clinics and programs.

A selection of rink fees from other facilities were included. Weekend rates for adults ranged from $ 5.00 at Flushing Meadow Corona Park in Queens to $ 16.00 at Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Last month the agency had a walk-though for positional operators. Proposals were due on March 15th but that date has been extened to March 29th.

"We've had quite a few people who have expressed interest, " a park source familiar with the project said.

Ice skating first came to the park in 1910 in a field across from the pool according to the DPR website. This will be the first time however that ice skating will be held inside the park according to the RFP.

green design, eco design, sustainable design, McCarren Pool, Jelly NYC, LEED Silver certification, DPR Landscape Architecture, PlaNYC initiative, BLoomberg, WIlliamsburg, McCarren, Public pools New York
The long anticipated reopening McCarren Park Pool is set for June 28th.

(Image: Courtesy of the NYC Parks Department)

Read More:

gothamist - March 27, 2012 - By Jen Carlson

DNAinfo - March 27, 2012 - By Meredith Hoffman

The Brooklyn Blog - March 27, 2012 - By Rich Calder

Brownstoner - March 28, 2012 - By Gabby


  1. Great news, though I wonder why the pool is so much smaller.

    1. This pool was once the largest pool in North America. Making it smaller makes sense but doesn't mean the the pool won't still be more than adequate.

    2. I can think of a couple of reasons why it may be smaller. First, in today's day and age there are a lot more choices of places to go for public bathing so there may be a lower turnout. Second, today people are more educated and concerned about hygene and health. Simply put, a large number of people (warranted or not) would not put themselves in a public pool atmosphere and subject themselves to illness.

    3. Before the pool closed it was renamed the P.O. Steven Gilroy Memorial Pool in honor of the Police Officer who was shot in the head during a seige at John and Al's sporting Goods store on Broadway in the 70's

    4. I believe one of the fields in the park was named after the hero police officer, not the pool.

  2. This is great for the community. I hope they maintain it properly. I remember the old pool and it was funky. there was alot of vandalism and ppl sneaking in at night to go swimming. One time I saw kids jumping in with bicycles in the middle of the night.

    Will there be the same rules as other parks & rec. pools (i.e. no shorts, color bands, t-shirts etc.).?

    1. No shorts? No t-shirts?

      Wild story re: kids jumping in with bicycles...

  3. I hope the tickets will be expensive enough to keep out the crowd

    1. It's a city pool. It will be free like all the others. Everyone should be able to use the pools not just people who can afford it. You can go to a private pool if you want wealthier people.

  4. Hope the pool will have security, if not the same will happen


  6. What I don't get is how can they spend so much money to reconstruct the pool, then just a few blocks away at the tennis courts people aren't allowed to play unless they go to paragon sports and pay $200 each for a pass.

    There is a serious imbalance when it comes to tennis in New York, especially considering the fact that it's host to one of the Grand Slams. An event that brings in Billions every year for New York.

    If the city is in the restoration mood, why don't they take a walk across the park, get rid of that disgusting waste of space next the tennis courts, and restore the 20+ court tennis center as it once was, and make it free for local kids.

  7. I'm very happy that the pool is going to open soon,bcuz. I drive to Jones Pool every summer and it takes me 45 minute to get there is beautiful,but the driving is to much i just hope they are not so demanding on swimming suit n also rent locker with keys, and not to expensive the entry.I will like to take my kids to mccarren pool. I can't wait to take them. Happy Summer everyone!!! :)

  8. How much is it going to cost?

  9. I remember the time when I went to McCarren Park Pool with my family on the pic on your post. I wonder if there were new changes done to the swimming pool? it has been a year now.

  10. The old pool: 10 cents for kids, a quarter for adults. How come back in the day there was a charge to enter the pool. And today it's free???

    PS Funds were allocated in the past to reopen the pool. What happened to those funds?

  11. I would like to say that I am so happy that they are opening the pool again..the very first time I went to the pool.. it was 1965..I was five years old,four years later,I became a jr life guard at that pool..I have beautiful memories but I also remember how the people that lived around the pool were SO RACIAL...I hope they dont bring back that B.S. because we was'nt haveing it back then and we are not taking that B.S. now.....BOOBIEONE