Brooklyn Heights

As end draws near, officials & families push to keep Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pop-Up Pool open

August 18, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Daniel Squadron (center), Borough President Eric Adams (left) and community members made a push on Thursday to keep the Pop-Up Pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park open until plans are in place for a replacement pool. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

BP Adams: 'Willing to put in capital dollars'

Over the past five years, the Pop-Up Pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park “has made a big splash and we can’t let it dry up,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron said at a poolside press conference on Thursday.

Always intended to be temporary, this summer is the facility’s fifth and final summer season — a major downer for families with children who learned to swim in the sparkly little pool.

Members of “Love Our Pool: Families United For A Pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park” and other community groups have been urging the city to keep the pool open until there are plans in place for a permanent pool.

Squadron said a survey showed that families from across Brooklyn and New York City use the 30-by-50-foot pool. Many who use it have no other swimming option.  (Love Our Pool report here.)

“We have 879 petition signatures from folks who say we need to save the Pop-Up Pool,” Squadron said, adding that the signers live in nine or 10 different Zip codes.

 The pool’s popularity was obvious on Thursday. Children squealed and splashed in its cool blue waters as the press conference took place nearby. The area around the pool includes a 2,500-square-foot sandy beach, a concession stand, showers and restrooms.

Izzy Levine, age 6, told the Brooklyn Eagle he wants the pool to stay open because “it’s where I learned to put my face in the water.” Izzy travels to the pool from Kensington with his dad Lee.

“The other pools cater more to middle school and high school kids,” Lee said, while the Pop-Up Pool caters to kids who are just overcoming their fear of the water.

A planned water play area wouldn’t make up for the pool, he said. When they visit, “We hang out here from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.”

Keep it open until there’s a funded plan

Borough President Eric Adams noted the diversity of those at the pool on Thursday and called Brooklyn Bridge Park “a bridge that bridges our communities together … and allows families to see the beauty of interaction with each other.

“I am willing to put in my capital dollars with the city to go towards making this pool a mainstay,” he said to applause. “We cannot take this pool away at the end of the season and then say, ‘One day, hopefully, we will have a pool.’”

Councilmember Stephen Levin said that everyone supports a permanent pool, “but until the idea becomes a reality the Pop-Up Pool needs to stay open.”

Suzanne Quint, a resident of DUMBO and the mother of two 9-year-old twins, organized Love Our Pool. She spoke at the press conference, along with fellow organizer Alexa Davidson.

“When you’re raising a family in an urban setting like Brooklyn, it is very hard to find affordable, accessible places to have outdoor play and swimming,” Quint said. “This pool has served its community so well … to lose the pool would be a huge blow.”

Quint said the group “would like to keep this pool not just until there’s a discussion about having another pool, but until there is a concrete and funded plan for another pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

Mom Nicole McCarthy treks to the park from Brownsville with her three children.

“This school is my vacation spot,” she said. “My daughter has cerebral palsy, and I let her walk all the way from outside to come in here. We take Access-A-Ride and we spend all day. The pool is open for eight hours and we spend seven hours here. Even when the pool is closed they don’t want to leave because they love the environment.”

It would be great to make it a bigger pool, she added, “because there’s so many people coming in now. Most days we get here early just to enjoy it.”

Nicole McCarthy, center, brings her three kids to the pool from Brownsville. Photo by Mary Frost

Always meant to be temporary

Park officials say the Pop-Up Pool was never intended to be permanent.

A 2011 MOU (memorandum of understanding), negotiated by Squadron and then-Assemblymember Joan Millman, provided for a small pool for five years.

The plan has always been has been to provide more parkland on the site, park officials say. They say the pool is only usable for roughly two months of the year, while the 3.4 acres of parkland that will replace it will be accessible year-round and will feature hills with pathways, a water play area and trees.

“We love the Pop-Up Pool too, and we’re eager to work with our local elected officials to secure funding for a larger, permanent pool for Brooklyn Bridge Park,” Belinda Cape, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s vice president, told the Eagle on Thursday.

“We’re excited to move forward with more than three acres of new parkland on the Pier 2 uplands,” she added.

Long, hot summers ahead

This “brutally hot summer” has made the value of the pool abundantly clear, the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) said in a statement.

“It’s not just a nice amenity. It is crucial to the well-being of thousands of Brooklyn residents. And it will be even more of a necessity with each passing year” as Brooklyn’s population continues its drastic increase,” BHA said.

The nearest public pools are in Gowanus and Red Hook, while the Double D pool (at Third Avenue and Nevins Street) may close for years during the remediation of the Gowanus Canal. With the Pop-Up Pool and the Double D out of action, that will mean only one pool for more than 200,000 residents, BHA says.

Lucy Koteen, co-chair of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC), said the park has been unresponsive to the public’s concerns about the pool. While the pool is only open for the summer months, “those are the three months of the year in which the park experiences the highest population,” she said. She noted that the sprinklers which would replace the pool would also be in operation only during the summer.

Koteen also said that the hotel at the Pierhouse complex, immediately adjacent to the pool, will have a rooftop pool “for those who can pay for it.”

“Here’s a clear example of a Tale of Two Cities,” she said.