The McCarren Park Pool was one of the eleven massive public pools built as WPA projects during the Depression; it opened in the summer of ’36, with a capacity of 6,800 swimmers. The pool declined with its neighborhood in the postwar years, closing in 1984, but the massive vacant space was rediscovered by enterprising Williamsburgers in the mid-aughts. It’s been featured in movies, and hosted them (it was the original venue for Summerscreen), as well as summer concerts (and dodgeball and waterslides). After a $50 million renovation, begun in 2009, the swimming pool will reopen with the rest of the city’s outdoor pools on June 28, after the end of the school year.
On a recent sweltering afternoon, we stood on Bedford and North 7th, and asked passersby: Are you excited? Will you actually go?
Mark Devit, 32
Lives in Bushwick, shopping along Bedford for specialty groceries
I would use it when I have days off, I don’t have traditional days off. That would be nice. [You would come to a different neighborhood to use the pool?] Yeah, it would be nice to know that there’s a place to go to a pool.
Lives in Jamaica, Queens
Not really, I’m just more of a beach person. I’m not really from this neighborhood, I only come here for work, and where I work, at the Edge, they have a pool in the building.
Pilley Bianchi, 45
22 years living in Williamsburg
Of course! I’ve been here for 22 years, and I’ve been dying for them to redo that pool. It was expensive to reopen, and it was closed down because of gang issues, but it’s massive. It’s one of the biggest pools in the state of New York.
Berlin Reed, 29
Lives in Bed-Stuy, six years working in Williamsburg
That’s pretty exciting. But I’m more of a natural setting, beach and river person. [Even if it got really hot?] Even if it got really hot, because the pool is gonna be really crowded, and I could go out to the beach and play in the sand. I go to Riis Beach, the gay beach. Gay beach, and naked people, and sand, or crowded pool? I mean, you know.
Jon Paley, 25
16 months living in Williamsburg
Oh, I’m super excited about it! I love swimming and pools. I live on 9th, so I think I would use it once a week, it’s in my backyard.
Anne Zager, 30
Lives in Astoria, one year working in Williamsburg
I would use it. I actually live in Astoria; we have a massive pool, Olympic-sized with a 30-foot diving board, that’s open like six weeks a year. But I work down the street, I maybe would use it after work, I really love swimming. There’s the indoor one here, the Metropolitan, but during the summer you want to be outside. I go down to that park a lot, I love that little garden.
Abijah Schofield, 23
Four years living in Williamsburg
Yeah I would go. But I feel like it’s going to be a lot of hipsters sneaking in booze.
Whitney Meers, 28
One year living in Williamsburg
That’s happening? Ok, that’s sweet. Of course I would use it. My boyfriend and I were trying to go swimming the other day, and we were just like, “Where the hell do we go? Do we go to the one down the street that’s like only open for an hour and a half and has family time, or something?” And that’s something that I would love to do. We were just thinking, “Whose apartment complex can we break into that has a pool?” So now we don’t have to, that’s awesome.
Dan Zeller, 46
Seven years living in Williamsburg
Yes. I would probably use it all the time. If I could swim laps there, I would go in the mornings. I would use it for exercise and pleasure, I think.
Victor Hu, 34
One month living in South Side Williamsburg
I was reading about it, I’m excited about it. But I don’t know how the fee structure works, and all that. I’m super excited about an outdoor pool, but I don’t know if they have any single use fees or you have to sign up for a whole summer. If it was free, or if you could swim for $5, I would be there all the time. I heard you had to have a membership, and I don’t like those kind of things, because then you feel like you have to go. [Editor’s note: though there’s a membership fee for indoor pools, all of the city’s outdoor pools are free.]