Depending on how long you’ve lived in Greenpoint, you may have witnessed the rise and fall of McCarren Park Pool. Opened during the height of the Great Depression in 1936, the pool was abandoned in 1983. Since then, the stately bathhouse and redbrick arches have stood in stark contrast to the rest of the space’s decay. Although many have passed the abandoned pool without thought of its past, Greenpoint photographer Gina Pollack made it her mission to document the pool’s abandonment and preserve this portion of its history for viewing and contemplation.
“I want to draw the neighborhood’s attention to the pool and how it’s in a state of flux,” explained Pollack. Her photo show of the pool premiered on Friday, June 8th at the one well, an eco-friendly boutique and art gallery. Images included red fall leaves piling up un-swept on the steps, and the pool’s discolored and graffiti-marred walls.
“The photos were taken in 2009,” she explained. “It’s such a historical place to the neighborhood and there’s an interesting cycle here since the pool’s decay is being paved over so we can use it again.”
Pollack wanted the photo show to coincide with the grand re-opening of McCarren Park Pool on June 28th, the result of a $50 million dollar renovation. With the pool now able to accommodate over 1,500 swimmers, Pollack wonders which swimmers in the neighborhood will make up the “new guard.”
“We could be seeing all different sorts of people at the pool,” she mused. “Maybe it will be the people living in the new luxury condos, maybe the kids of south Brooklyn, or the artist hipster types.” Whatever the demographic may be, a very different set of swimmers will grace the pool than the working-class families from when it first opened.
In her short time as a Greenpoint resident, Pollack has already observed the changes in her adopted neighborhood’s population, and how its cultural evolution is linked to that of the pool. The link between evolving places and their inhabitants is also the theme of a second exhibit she has showing at the one well. Entitled “Other relics,” this series documents Pollack’s travels through diverse areas, such as Israel, Alaska, Prague, and Seattle.
“I wanted to show these two series together because they’re both related,” said Pollack. All the photos represent “landscapes that have been altered by the people living there.”
With “Where they swam,” Pollack illustrates how the pool affects, and is affected by, the gentrification of Williamsburg/Greenpoint. In “Other relics,” she documents political changes taking place in Israel, while it remains a sacred and religious country, and Alaska because “its pristine wilderness is being changed as it’s mined for resources.”
Pollack also hopes her show will bring exposure to the one well as a social and artistic hub. The art venue has been owned and operated by Kerry Jones since November of 2011. “It’s a great store, but it’s off the beaten path [past Manhattan Avenue] so it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic,” she said. “I want people in the community to realize this is a place to come see work from local artists. Every month she hosts someone new.”
Pollack’s photos of the pool capture a decaying beauty in that has been generally overlooked by its neighbors. Thanks to her efforts, many Greenpointers can reflect on the pool’s storied history while preparing to enjoy the water for the first time this summer. The exhibit will be run from now until July 8th.
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