Should McCarren Park Pool Be Restored?

“Now that they’re not going to destroy the pool, it’s magnetic” Phyllis Yampolsky, an artist and a longtime Greepoint resident, says about the McCarren pool, shown above in a 1937 photograph. The following year after the pool shut down in 1983, residents blocked Parks Department workers from repairing it because they wanted to give youths from other nabes less reason to hang around the park. Twenty two years later, the neighborhood is split over the pool’s future: on one side those who would love to have a gigantic swimming hole in their front yard; on the other, those who like the idea of continuing to use the pool as a space for music and performing arts.
The Glory of the Past–Or Not [NY Times]

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  • That Agora dance troup is bullcrap. The park looks like absolute SHIT. Something needs to be done to the pool – either restoration or demolition/creation of something new – Hockey rink/Skate park etc. Its a blight on a up-and-coming area !

  • I’m sorry but I can’t look at that picture for more than 2 seconds without cringing from germophobia.

  • I think they should restore the pool. let the kids have some damn water on the summers instead of the water hyrdrant sprinkers :p. i dont know any of you guys ever been to a public nyc pool before. its better than no pool or beach at all. the one is sunset park is okayish.

  • dreadnatty whats wrong with you, why would you want the Parks Dept to fix up a once beautiful public accomodation to allow for use by all residents, when you can have a closed, crumbling, boarded up, dangerous, graffiti covered “Art” piece right in the middle of your neighborhood – get your priorities straight man.

  • Let’s get a pool for our kids. The pretentious Agora media hog speaks as if there is a constituency for her foolishness. No one wants to keep it as is. This is a typical NY Times lazy reporter not even bothering to interview the neighbors about the article. The only battle is how preserved to the original the pool should be.

  • I used to use the one in Sunset Park and Staten Island as a kid and it was a fun (and safe) experience. But that was during the oh-so-repressed late ’50’s-early ’60’s when folks more or less behaved themselves. Well, that was then and this is now–a whole new situation and set of expectations. Whoever buys into all those new developments around the park will NOT welcome refurbishing it to be as it once was, drawing thousands from outside GP on hot days to overwhelm the neighboring park and vicinity when not in the pool.

    I look at that shot, so like the scenes from my childhood and can’t help but think that such nowadays would call for a major police presence or at least serious crowd control. Who needs that?

    Unfortunately for GP, the building is not a piece of crap that can be demolished. It’s a gorgeous…white elephant. I guess some decision will have to be made eventually.

  • The pool in Red Hook is fabulous. I have spent many a summer afternoon there. It has really made summers in the city bearable. The dressing rooms and showers need upgrading, but the pool itself is fabulous and well-managed. The Parks staff even plant flowers in planters. And there’s a separate gentle kiddie pool for the toddler set. Everyone (all walks of life) goes there – a truly democratic place, it seems to me.

  • Yes. And no. Discuss.

  • As noted above, the Red Hook pool is excellent. And while people do get rowdy, the life guards and Parks Department officers keep it under control.

    I say put the pool in, and to hell with the rich people who are afraid of the brown-skinned people making a rukus.

  • love love love the Red Hook pool

    I say restore this to its former glory

    City kids need access to H2O

  • Agreed with above. Restore and love.

  • Of course the pool should be restored. The Red Hook pool is a civic treasure. Its not rowdy at all and there are no problems with crowd control. Its filled with families on weekends enjoying good clean fun. And unlike the 1950s – we don’t have to worry about Polio. If the restored McCarren Park pool is anything like the Red Hook pool – it’ll attract a cross section of Brooklynites including families who live in public housing and and families from Park Slope. The Red Hook Pool attracts a large number of betattooed artsy youngsters too. Judging from all the hipsters playing baseball in McCarren Park in the summer, I bet they’ll be taking to the pool in droves also. I can’t see any downside to restoring the pool.

  • I’m not too familiar with this concept. I didn’t grow up in NY so I’ve never seen anything like this. how do they watch all these kids at once and keep them from drowning? how do they keep this place clean? and how can you even swim when the pool is packed like this? although, I think its a great idea to have somewhere for kids to enjoy themselves and stay out of trouble I can only imagine the germs festering in that water!

  • As a mom of 2 kids, I’d be overjoyed to have a pool in my front yard! What’s wrong with those people?

  • Restore the complex as a pool, but not necessarily the pool itself. As the photo shows, the existing pool is huge. Maybe it would a better amenity if it were smaller pools? Or pools and other athletic facilities?

    Not sure, but the complex itself is amazing, and the neighborhood needs more open and recreational space.

  • 5:22, I’ve never seen as many people at the Red Hook pool as in the above photo, though it is very busy especially at the start of the season or during a heat wave. Lifeguards ward against drownings, chlorine wards against germs, cops from the precinct ward against “incidents,” and the pool manager and her staff ward against everything else. The pool is open for limited hours (11-2 or 3, and 4-7). The water is frequently tested for coliform. (A few years ago when I was there they kicked everyone out of the pool because the levels registered too high – but the pool was back in business by the following swim period.) A section is cordoned off for lap swimmers who do their best to share lanes and accommodate faster/slower swimmers. (The lap lanes are very popular and there are too few of them).

    You don’t necessarily get the sense from this photo, but it’s a really nice scene at the Red Hook pool. For example, there are regulars, people who come around the same time every day to sun themselves, do laps, or to splash around with their kids – it’s so nice in the city to see familiar faces (who knows one’s neighbors?) so there’s just a really nice communal spirit around the place even if strangers don’t interact all that much (it is NYC after all). Towards summer’s end the regulars are melancholy about the closing for the season after Labor Day – so sad!

  • wonder what those folks who buy the high priced hi rise condos on the park will think when Ron Delsner and Clearchannel are producing those loud concerts right under their windows. Not to mention the crowds they will bring to the streets. The Times article conveniently left all this out. Some ommission. The Agora performance was just a wedge and the choreography was mediocre at best.

  • In New York City we have zillions of indoor AND outdoor performance spaces. We don’t have many public pools. I don’t live in Williamsburgh, so I am not sure I get a vote, mine would be POOL.

  • Hello!

    I am a Brooklyn Boy, born and raised on Newton Street in the 50s, attended St. Stan’s and spent many summers swimming at McCarren. It was great boyhood experience. I saw McCarren POOL last year just prior to the “tendy, artsy-fartsy, expensive” outdoor amusement it had decended into. It was sad to see a beautiful memory changed in light of the fact that ALL the other POOLS built by the WPA in the 30s are STILL POOLS and to the great enjoyment of their respective neighborhoods. I am still a Brooklyn Boy at heart and, maybe, soon, physically will be there again to see the treasures that make Greenpoint a “home for everyone”. I would like to see McCarren declared a Historical Monument and renovated as it was when it was open in 1936. It seems that it has been closed for longer that it was open. Why? Why is there so much interest in McCarren? Especially by non-Greenpoint neighbors? I smell a dollar to be made! And that smell is more toxic than all the shit that was filling up the old pool. Imagine 6,000 to 6,500 neighbors swimming in the cool waters of McCarren during the muggy, hot summers. After the POOL is gone, where will you swim? Now imagine what’s it’s become. Another symbol of the dollar merchants! Another shot at “If it’s NOT broke, don’t fix it!” It started as a POOL, it should remain a POOL! It should be fixed and preserved as it was intended to be in 1936. I’m sure that there are other “spaces” available thoughtout Brooklyn for the “tendies” for outside dancing but my memories of Greenpoint were of family and summers. And neighbors shouting across streets from windows during the summer evenings, of running though McCarren Park and, of course, swimming in her cool waters. Has it changed? Is Greenpoint abandoning her history of blue collar workers, of modest apartments and homes. of boyhood dreamers, of local neighborhoods where you knew almost everyone and everything that was happening. Of shovling snow down the storm drains during the winter. Redoing McCarren is not just “filling-in” the hole. IT’s forever changing a neighbohood. It’s a definite step backwards. But the DOLLAR! I almost forgot. It will consume the neighborhood and the neighbors who were there will no longer be, the POOL will be reduced to a photo and something unique and magic will have disappeared forever. Try to save yourselves before it’s too late. There are powerfull DOLLARS out there whose sole objective is to cahnge everything and leave nothing behind to remind us of the Greenpoint I knew, of the Greenpoint I think I still know. I hope the next McCarren POOL article I read is about a movement to preserve the POOL and the neighborhood from which it was born. Thanks. BB

  • Respect yourself, or no one else will respect you… Randall

  • I’m not really sure what to think? I just invested a large sum of $ in one of the new penthouse apartments across the pool, I hope I didn’t make a mistake? I figure if Bloomburg is granting over 50 million dollars to this pool project, he’s going to assure it doesn’t go to hell, again, and works to benefit the surrounding tax payers? The pool was magnificent in its former glory, and I’m very curious to see it come back to life. I just hope the plans include a separate adult side where us big kids could enjoy it too……

  • It’s a shame that out of the top ten biggest outdoor pools in America this is the only one of the ten that is disused. Heck if everywhere else can keep these things alive, why can’t NYC? People need outdoor recreation in this time of obesity! Let the city provide for it’s people. Let there be a pool!