Have you no time to haul out to Rockaway? Are you close to home and looking to be submerged in something other than sweat? Lucky for you the city provides its residents with tons of options for a free swim — and we’re not talking about the fountain in Washington Square Park. If you haven’t found your swimming hole of choice just yet, it’s best not to take a blind jump into some mystery bath.
B+B has put together a comprehensive list of pools in our hoods, complete with various indicators for each park, and an overall rating on a scale 1-10 (10 being reserved for only the most pristine of ponds). Heed our guide, and with any luck you might be able to avoid the herds of stampeding children and long lines that plague some of these pools.
Hamilton Fish Park
128 Pitt St., bet. Stanton and East Houston Sts., Lower East Side
Cleanliness: No issues here– we walked around barefoot and the bathrooms were superbly clean and fully stocked.
Seating: No chairs inside the pool area itself, but there’s plenty of concrete to spread out your towel. Outside of the fenced-in pool area however there are tons of benches on which to chill.
Amenities: Lockers were plentiful (even on a busy day), bathrooms were guarded, and there are rinse-off showers just outside the pool gates. Two separate pools provide very different environments: the round pool close to the entrance is a more tranquil place for young kids and olds. Its larger, rectangular counterpart is the pool of choice for teenagers and adults.
Size: Two large separate pools provide plenty of space, though neither of the pools are very deep. No room for diving at 3.5 feet deep.
Crowd: Things got a little rowdy by late afternoon. But everyone seemed to be lord of their own space. Not much room for laps.
Shade/ Sun Availability: The pool deck itself was in direct sunlight, but just outside the gates are lots of trees and seating opportunities in the shade.
Temperature: No complaints. Cool enough to be refreshing, but not too chilly.
Diaper Factor: Steer clear of the wading pool and avoid the BBs.
The Man: There are lots of lifeguards on duty, the guards are pretty strict about what you bring in, i.e. nothing (“shake out your towel”), so get your flask on in the park before entering through the pool gates.
Tompkins Square Pool
Avenue A between E. 7th and E. 10th, East Village
The thing about the pool at Tompkins Square Park is that you’ll have to introduce yourself to your neighbors to tell them you live in the area. You know how usually kids aren’t allowed into places without adults? Well, at this pool, you’re not allowed into the pool without a kid, because apparently all adults are creepy perverts.
Humboldt Street at Bushwick and Flushing Avenues, Bushwick
Cleanliness: Pretty darn clean. Not spotless, but this may just be because the building is slightly older and so not all new and shiny—and we didn’t feel dirty when we left. The pool itself seemed hygienic, with only a couple stray leaves (or what we hope were leaves) settled at the bottom.
Seating: Limited. A handful of standard white sun-lounges that early-birds had presumably colonized at the crack of dawn. Otherwise, a towel on concrete worked fine for us.
Amenities: Lockers (these are fairly small, while their lock-hoops are kind of on the large size. Do not bring a tiny $1 lock like we did, because it may not fit, and then you’ll have to go across the road to the store to buy a new one). Showers and bathrooms. A drinking fountain.
Pool Size and Features: The main pool is 75′ x 60′ x 3′, with a capacity of 190 (while the main deck inexplicably has a capacity of only 180). The water comes up to around hip-height on an average-height female adult. There is also a smaller wading pool, which wasn’t open when we went.
Crowd: Jam-packed in a friendly way. Mostly school-aged neighborhood kids, it would seem, and a smattering of parents. Rowdy, rambunctious, and they all seem to know each other. Cool kids aged 10-17 are arguably in predominance, but a fair number of toddlers getting buoyed up by their parents while they learn to doggie-paddle made a spluttering appearance.
Shade/Sun availability: A good ratio when we went in the late afternoon (and most likely at all times of the day). No purpose-built shade, but plenty provided by the surrounding tall buildings, and a tan-facilitating amount of sun.
Temperature: Good: not to hot, not too cold (although frankly any large body of water would’ve suited us on this particularly steamy day).
Diaper factor: We saw many, many children, and noticed not a single diaper. Make of that what you will. But there’s no separation here, so if you have a pathological hatred of small human beings, this may not be the best bet.
The man: Present but pleasant. Certainly the crowd is somewhat untameable, so there’s plenty of illicit (and somewhat un-checked) diving and splashing and water-bombing, which makes for a good time all round. Occasional whistle toots from the lifesavers.
Score: Really depends what you’re after. 7/10 if you’re looking for a relaxing, secluded dip free from noise and splash. 9/10 if you just want to cool off and don’t care how many other people are doing the same.
McCarren Park Pool
776 Lorimer St., bet. Bayard St. and Driggs Ave., Williamsburg
Cleanliness: squeaky clean. Zero problems on the hygiene side of things, or so it appeared to us.
Seating: Plenty. There are concrete bleachers at various spots around the deck, as well as the white sun-loungers that people tend to reserve with wet towels.
Amenities: Good and plentiful. Large lockers in large locker-rooms, clean looking private changing rooms and nice shower area. A big first aid base in one corner, just in case.
Pool Size and Features: This pool is fancy. C-shaped, the main pool has capacity for 1,502 people (while the deck can fit 704—don’t ask us how this works). The pool ranges in depth from a wading area only 6 inches deep, to swimming lanes sitting at 4 ft., 6 inches. The laned area was fenced off when we went in the afternoon, but is open during the morning and evening for lap swimming. In the middle of the “C,” there’s a concrete area with a fun sprinkler system for kids, and at the wading end several water fountains shoot into the shallow water.
Crowd: Mixed. At the wading end, mostly young kids, graduating through to young professionals (say 20s-30s) in the mid-section. Some fairly groovy swimming costumes on show: sophisticated cut-outs and bandeau bikinis, even some swimming jewelry (?) making an appearance. We’d say this is a destination pool—people were arriving in cars when we popped by, making an afternoon of it.
Shade/Sun availability: Some shaded area, but mostly sun-drenched. And plenty of beautiful people making the most of the sun-bathing opportunity.
Temperature: No complaints here.
Diaper factor: Minimal. Kids bumble around in the shallow end, so if you’re too cool for that you can scoot to any of the other sections.
The man: The McCarren Man takes his job seriously. The staff WILL check that you actually have a lock. Plenty of lifeguards and other miscellaneous pool people wandering around, and actually making sure no one does anything too outrageous, like running. We saw minimal splashing, and no diving. So for rebels, this may not be your bag.
By Nicole Disser, Kirsten O’Regan and Kate Beaudoin