By Ernest Barteldes
Among the various activities I enjoy doing during the summer – in addition to attending outdoor concerts and going to the beach as much as possible – is swimming. Since I was never much of a team sports kind of guy (I did play soccer as a goalkeeper, but as far as I remember I wasn’t any good) I kind of relished being in the water – and developed a taste for swimming.
The gym I go to does not have a pool, so I only get to swim during the brief period in which the outdoor public pools are open. Few people I speak to seem to be fully aware of their existence, but there are dozens of pools across the city mostly built around the 1930s in areas that were inhabited by immigrants at the time.
These outdoor swimming pools (which vary in size from very small to Olympic) are open from late June to Labor Day. The city of New York also runs a considerably smaller number of indoor pools that are open year-round, but these require membership that goes for (as of this writing) $200 a year – a very small sum compared to what you might pay for a gym.
Contrary to popular belief, the public pools are quite clean – throughout the day, employees test the water for any impurities, and if something out of the ordinary happens the premises are immediately evacuated. I know this to be true because I had been doing my laps on two different occasions and they ordered everyone out because they’d found something in the water.
At the pool I go to most frequently – the Joseph P. Lyons Pool on Staten Island, one of the – there is always a reserved area for lap swimmers away from the other bathers and their families. It is a large Olympic pool, and on very hot days there is a large crowd but everyone gets along well – the only time I recall any trouble was when a bunch of teens refused to leave after becoming a bit rowdy and then the cops were called. There was also an incident in which two teens drowned while playing a breath-holding contest, but in over ten years since I’ve been going there that was pretty much it. I have also visited a few other pools – when I played at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Manhattan, I’d frequently go to the Tony Dapolito Pool, and once I visited the Astoria Pool – the largest in the city.
I try to swim as much as I can since the time for that is so limited. This season I went about three times a week (in lieu of going to the gym) – I could have gone more often, but I guess I lacked the discipline of previous years. Thankfully the City of New York was able to keep the pools open a week after Labor Day, so I was able to take to the water a few more times – but now it’s back to the gym and waiting for those eight months to go by.