When the Parks Department added a bright coat of paint and some new décor to five of its drab 1970s-era intermediate-sized public outdoor pools, something cool happened: People rediscovered their neighborhood pools.
“The positive reaction was overwhelming,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “People were calling them resort pools. Some wanted to know if there was a fee to go into the pools.”
The so-called “Cool Pools” initiative was a success, boasting a 27.2 percent increase in attendance. That’s markedly higher than the 13 percent jump at other city pools.
Silver said the Parks Department is expanding the program to six additional pools this summer: Wagner and Dry Dock in Manhattan, Liberty in Queens, Claremont in the Bronx, Commodore Barry in Brooklyn and Tottenville in Staten Island.
“Not everyone has access to our larger pools or has access to the beach,” Silver said. “These are pools people can walk to from their homes.”
For last year’s pilot program, Parks selected pools with little greenery that are visible from the street and are located in neighborhoods with high poverty rates.
For about $70,000 per pool, the agency added colorful, inviting murals, lounge chairs and plantings. Parks staffers are on hand to provide programming at the sites ranging from fitness classes to deck games.
Attendance at the Douglass & Degraw Pool in Gowanus was 37,161 in the summer of 2018, an increase of 54.1 percent from the previous year.
“We wanted to make them into destinations,” Silver said.
Support from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Carlina Rivera helped renovate a second pool in Manhattan this summer.
“It was a small investment that got such a positive reaction,” Silver said.
The city has 53 outdoor pools across the five boroughs, including Olympic-size, intermediate-size, mini-pools and wading pools.