Fort Hamilton High School pool to reopen after a year of renovations
After an extended hiatus for renovations to its HVAC and boiler, the Fort Hamilton High School pool – a mainstay for both student athletes and local swimming groups – will finally reopen next month, Councilmember Justin Brannan told this paper Tuesday.
“It’s official,” the pol said, noting that the School Construction Authority (SCA), the group behind the overhaul of the school’s Tom Greene Natatorium, has promised him that “Kids will be swimming by November 12 the latest.”
The pool’s closure in June, 2017 had a ripple effect on groups across the borough which called the Ridge natatorium home. These include the Bay Ridge Aquatics Institute (BRAINS), a non-profit organization founded by the pool’s namesake, Tom Greene, that deals in swim-centered programs and life-saving education that, in April of this year, launched a GoFundMe to stay afloat long enough to see the completion of the pool’s renovation without additional funding.
The displacement, the group contended, had left BRAINS incapable of offering its educational programs – which, officials stressed in the group’s online fundraiser, generate the subsidy to keep its USA swim team, “The Harbor Seals,” affordable for all. The group also offers an array of lesson programs as well as American Red Cross Lifeguard, CPR and Water Safety Instructor Training.
The pool’s renovation was originally slated for completion in July of this year but a source said the project was pushed back to allow for an upgrade to LED lighting for the pool area.
Jennifer Gagnon, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, forwarded to this paper an email sent to those who use the pool.
It says, “SCA has informed us that the pool construction at Fort Hamilton High School is on target to end at the start of November, 2018. The only delay we foresee could be with inspections which we do not have any control.”
Given that, the email notes, DOE is “accepting permit applications for the remainder of the fall term,” with spring pool requests accepted beginning in December. Users will be informed of any delays, the email says.
In addition, the email notes that the same schedules “that were in effect before the close of the pool” will remain in effect “through the spring term of 2019,” with a review of usage scheduled for fall, 2019, and groups notified of any availability.
Greene expressed delight that the work is finally nearing completion.
“We’re all looking forward to returning,” he told this paper. “The Harbor Seals swim team and the various community groups that use it after school had to look for other places to swim so they’re going to be happy to come back and have their own pool. We’re all very happy.”
Brannan is also glad to see the revamp taking its final lap.
“I really wanted to make a big splash during my first year as your new councilman and what better way than to get this done! While I know this has been a long, frustrating wait for all the swimmers who have been displaced, I am excited to see the improved Fort Hamilton High School pool,” he said. “We all want the Tom Greene Natatorium to be around so generations of swimmers can enjoy it so I think these repairs and renovations will ultimately be worth the wait.”
The pool opened in 1993, after an uphill battle by Greene to get it constructed. Before his advocacy, Fort Hamilton High School’s swim team had to go elsewhere for practices and competitions and – as evident during the pool’ brief hiatus – swim groups the likes of BRAINS (formed in conjunction with the birth of the pool) had no place else to go.
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