For those growing up in Greenpoint/Williamsburg during the 80s, the McCarren Park Pool was a vast, eerie fortress of decay, coated in graffiti, to be entered only on a dare. Many residents, however, had visions of a renewal for the North Brooklyn landmark, whose fortunes have largely followed those of its neighborhood. One of 11 pools opened by Robert Moses during the Great Depression, it closed in 1984 and sat unused until the summer of 2005 when its basin became a performance venue. On Thursday, June 28th, the Pool finally reopened, to the pleasure of neighbors old and new. The first of eight PlaNYC regional park projects to be completed, today the restored WPA pool and center allows for 1,500 bathers and boasts fitness facilities for adults as well as exercise and arts and craft rooms for kids.
During the opening ceremony, both city and local officials hailed the successful completion of the $50 million project, arriving right in the midst of a heat wave.
“McCarren Park Pool has an illustrious past and a bright future,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “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.”
“We all know that our borough is the ‘coolest’ city on the planet according to GQ,” added Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz. “And Brooklyn just got a whole cooler…literally.”
For Community Board 1 District Manager Gerald Esposito, the event marked the return of an old friend. “I learned how to swim in this pool, now generations to come will have the same opportunity!”
Thursday’s good feelings began to slip away just a day later, when lifeguards attempted to stop a group of teenagers from horsing around on Friday night. An altercation, followed, and the Pool was closed 45 minutes early. On Monday, lifeguards caught three teenagers doing back-flips from the deck and ordered them to stop. When they refused, cops were called and during the ensuing exchange 20-year-old Rodolfo Torres punched a police officer from the 94th Precinct in the face. Another officer hurt his wrist while attempting to handcuff his accomplices. Torres, Carlos Caramago, 17, and Jose Caramago, 18 were arrested on charges of assault, menacing and disorderly conduct, and inciting a riot. The two officers were later taken to Bellevue Hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries.
Complaints about thefts, garbage and long lines have also surfaced in newspapers and on the Internet. But according to the City, a few unfortunate scenes could not mar a well-earned day of leisure at its newest public pool.
“Thousands of New Yorkers are enjoying McCarren Park Pool’s beautiful renovation, getting exercise and keeping cool during this heat wave, said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey. “The few minor incidents have not impacted the vast majority of pool attendees, just as similar incidents at pools across the city don’t stop New Yorkers from enjoying themselves. NYPD and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers will continue to staff McCarren and the other large pools as they always do.” On Tuesday, July 3rd, the NYPD confirmed that additional officers had been assigned to assist the four that already patrol the Pool every day and a Temporary Headquarters Vehicle (THV) has been placed in front of the location.
Most Brooklynites, whether from across the street or across the borough, weren’t about to let a few bad apples ruin their summers.
“I usually go to Hamilton Fish [Park Pool],” said Chinita Williams, who had brought her eight-year-old son, Jaelyn and four-year-old daughter, Jayla all the way from Canarsie. “But I wanted something a little closer and nicer. It’s a clean, accessible, family-friendly facility with a lot to offer. And the children were looked after by the lifeguards, who did a great job.”
Williamsburg resident James Hough also saluted Pool personnel on a job well done. “When I heard about it, I said ‘I gotta get over there,’” said Hough, who lives on N. 7th Street and Bedford Avenue. “There’s a nice chill to the water. A lot of room. The lifeguards were on their game, making sure people were safe and controlling the crowds. If people can’t respect that, they can leave.”
In a letter to the Greenpoint Gazette, Fr. Robert Czok, the former pastor of St. Anthony’s, wrote of the Pool’s reopening in the context of North Brooklyn’s continuing transformation. “A space that [had] sadly gone into dormition, [is] now resurgent with life,” cheered Czok in an email to the Gazette. “Brightened by a glorious sunshine, it’s hard not to think of the moment as a resurrection. It was a memorable day for Greenpoint/Williamsburg which [itself has] been experiencing a resurgence and transformation.”
McCarren Park Pool will be open daily 11am to 7pm until Labor Day (Monday, September 3rd). For more information, visit www.nyc.gov.
Type your name and email address below, then click "Submit" to be added to our spam-free email list.