Brooklyn Heights

Brainstorming ideas for a new pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Should Squibb Park Pool have a bubble? A trolley?

September 17, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At a community planning session Sunday, participants brainstormed ideas and presented their wish lists for pool design, amenities and access points for a new public swimming pool in Squibb Park overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park. Above, Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau throws in his two cents. Photo by Mary Frost
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This past week local residents helped design a new public swimming pool planned for Brooklyn Heights.

At two community planning sessions held on Wednesday and Sunday at P.S. 8, roughly a hundred participants brainstormed ideas and presented their wish lists for pool design, amenities and access points for the pool, which is to be built in little-used Squibb Park overlooking Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“I want to see two lap lanes and a wading pool.”

“Can it be covered in the winter and uncovered in the summer?”

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“Should it be a hangout kind of place or just where people come to swim?”

“What about sand and beach chairs?”

The crowd, sitting in clusters at tables in the cafeteria, were presented with possible scenarios by Kristina Drury, founder of Tythe Design, the community engagement specialists hired by Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is overseeing the project.

The possible scenarios, which include a lap pool, kids’ wading pool, combination pool, and year-round covered pool, were meant to be a jumping off point for discussion.

“These are scenarios, no decisions have been made,” Drury told the crowd. “Our intention is to talk through with you what would the pros and cons of each scenario be.”

She encouraged the crowd to “speak from your own perspective, so if you’re really excited about one of the scenarios, awesome, share that with us. But also if you have concerns about one of the other scenarios, let us know.”

A facilitator took each table through the scenarios. Then the participants were provided with two different colored Post It notes and asked to share pros and cons for each one.

Hot Topics: Year-Round Swimming, Inclusivity

Shade, seating and food concessions were the top amenities Drury has heard about so far, she told the crowd.

The idea of a year-round, covered pool generated much discussion, both pro and con.

“I want to use the time I have to be outside, experience summer,” said one participant. “Swimming is an important part of that. If a year-round pool can be accomplished without tradeoffs, great, I’m all for that. But if it trades off on the summer experience, I’m less enthused.”

“One, there are likely a lot greater cost concerns when it comes to an indoor pool, not only the construction of it but the maintenance of it, every single year,” said another. “And two, I wonder about it being an eyesore. I imagine an indoor pool is nowhere near as pleasing as some of these other designs.”

“Maybe a Jane’s Carousel [type] design, where it’s open; you can open the doors,” was another suggestion. “You probably can’t heat it as well in the winter, but …”

“Can it be covered in the winter and uncovered in the summer?” asked another.

For some, inclusivity was a consideration.

Perhaps there could “be a way to taper the pool gradually, maybe have some steps into the pool itself, make it inclusive not only for kids but also older people who sometimes have some trouble getting in and out of the pool,” a couple suggested.

“I’m advocating for kids’ hours, toddler time, senior aerobics  … None of the city pools have programs for retired adults,” said another.

Others advocated for private swimming hours for people wanting privacy, like Orthodox Jewish women.

“There should be [separate] sessions for laps and kids lessons,” suggested another.

While a large number of attendees wanted to build in a wading section for children, some adults wanted more time in the pool for themselves.

“I like children, but there are so many children [at the Pop-Up Pool] all the time and I could never swim,” said another. “There were unruly children. If it’s a lap pool maybe there will be less children like that and I could swim sometimes.”

People wanted food and drinks, but worried about overflowing trash cans “like on the Promenade.” Some suggested limiting a food concession to just drinks and maybe one or two simple snacks.

Participants also got to draw their ideal layouts, with space for preferred amenities, including a sandy beach, picnic tables, lockers and anything else they wanted.

Brooklyn Bridge Park President Eric Landau told one table that the front entrance ramp to the park didn’t have to stay.

“You could design it in such a way where you put an elevator here. Then it has maintenance realities,” he said. “One potential reason is if you had an elevator you might create more space and have more amenities in the park itself.”

Will Crowds Cause Problems?

Participants were asked for their ideas on how to manage crowds as they traveled through the neighborhood to the pool.

While it will be theoretically possible to get to the pool from Brooklyn Bridge Park via Squibb Park Bridge, closed indefinitely for safety reasons, the majority of users will still arrive from Columbia Heights, one participant guessed. This means more people walking through local streets.

“There will be residents who don’t consider this an amenity. They will consider this too big a change for their quality of life,” she said. “So if it’s really a pool as opposed to a meeting place — the less commercial the better.”

Another said that in the past, “We have had the problem that people have not been well-behaved.” She said she expected more behavior of this sort after the pool was built.

Squibb Park is midway between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the streets of Brooklyn Heights, placing it between the park and the subways. A number of participants felt there needed to be a way to separate the crowds passing by and those swimming.

“You probably want some kind of privacy … so they will keep walking and not pick up your belongings on the way out,” said one.

“People will be coming who have no intention of swimming. There should be a little path where people keep going,” said another.

No Design Yet

“The main point there is that there is no design that has been created yet for this pool because we want to hear from the community about size of pool … whether there should be a concession on site or where there should be non-swimming amenities, like we have the beach at the Pop-Up Pool,” Landau told the Eagle.

“Other questions for the community were how they felt about year-round use of the space. You could find a way to bubble or cover the pool in the winter, or find a way to use the space in the summer and cover it outside the summer … to have a large, open play space. Before we put out a design RFP with a set of criteria of design, we really wanted to hear from the community,” he said.

“The survey that we’ve done has gotten over 1,500 responses,” Landau added. “We had 50, 60 people at the session on Wednesday, and another 40 or so today. We had people in the park this summer talking to people. So there’s been a lot of outreach.”

One of the more interesting ideas he’s heard as a way to eliminate people using their cars to get to the pool is the start of a trolley bus.

“I’ve heard the idea of a trolley — that’s something worth looking at,” he said.

“Some of the most meaningful things people have talked about are how this pool and surrounding amenities can be a real gathering spot and a real experience for members not only of the surrounding communities, but communities further afield,” Nancy Webster, executive director at Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, told the Eagle.

“I heard many people comment on crafting a pool that would keep you there for a period of time. Not only where you could swim but a place to hang out and experience the park from a different perspective,” she said.

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