Public Swim

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If you haven’t yet visited an outdoor pool in Brooklyn, August is a good month to stick your toes in. The city feels empty, and the waters are less crowded, especially during the week. But “the rules” can be a bit of a shock. All pools are open daily from 11 am to 7 pm, but they close between 3 and 4 to clean, so if you come at 2:45, they won’t let you in. (Another hint, don’t go right when the pool opens; you’ll avoid lines.) Also, you need to bring your own lock–combination or key–to lock up everything you can’t bring poolside. The only things permitted are a towel, sunscreen, a water bottle and flip-flops. If you wear a shirt, it has to be white, and if you wear shorts, they need to be board shorts. Once you get these basics down, and ignore the state of the locker rooms (man, are we excited for that brand-new McCarren Park pool!), you can start to enjoy swimming in cool, clean waters for free. Here are a few to try before the last dip, Sept. 6.

Sol Goldman Pool, Red Hook, Bay and Henry Streets, entrance on Bay, 718-722-3211, also open for adult lap swim 7-8:30am, 7pm-dusk till Sept. 3
Maybe it’s the bright, primary colors in the kids’ water park, pictured at top, but there is something really cheery about the Red Hook pool (built in 1936 with WPA funding and later renamed Sol Goldman in honor of the family’s contributions). It’s big, it’s clean, it’s not super crowded with kids or cool kids, it’s friendly, and if you go on a weekend, you can get tacos at the ball fields after your swim, or check out the new La Tiendita shop at the Red Hook Mercado. Hello, Staycation.

Sunset Park, 7th Ave. and 43rd St., entrance on 7th Ave., 718-965-6578, also open for adult lap swim 7-8:30am, 7pm-dusk till Sept. 3
The line that gathers in the morning and late afternoon to get into this WPA-era pool is the typical Sunset Park mishmash of young couples, older folks, a smattering of teens, and plenty of thrilled kids chattering in three or four different languages. But even with kids bobbing around in the Olympic-plus water, there’s plenty of room. There’s also a large wading pool for toddlers.

Kosciuszko Pool, Bed-Stuy, 670 Marcy Ave., entrance on DeKalb, 718-622-5271
This pool has seen better days–like the 70s, when this picture was taken, and all of the pool’s facilities were being used. But despite an uptick in swimmers in the last few years, it’s still relatively uncrowded, especially the last third of the Olympic-sized pool. They reserve this for lap swimmers the entire day. (Side note: We can’t decipher the reason why this pool is named after the Polish general who built West Point; a better name might be Morris Lapidus, the Bed-Stuy native who designed this pool and hotel pools like Miami’s Fountainbleu.)

Double D Pool, Gowanus, Douglass and Nevins St., entrance on Douglass, 718-625-3268
Despite being in a semi-industrial section of Gowanus, the Double D pool (so named because it’s between Degraw and Douglass Streets on Third Avenue) is clean and well-maintained. Because of its almost secret location it also tends not to be very crowded, even though it’s not Olympic-sized. And it has a separate kiddie pool for parents who want to keep their babies or toddlers clear of the arms of flailing swimmers.

Commodore Barry Pool, Wallabout/Navy Yard, Flushing Ave. and N. Elliot, entrance on N. Elliot, 718-243-2593
A little like the Double D, the Commodore Barry is just as small (only three feet deep), has a wading pool for toddlers, and is in an out-of-the-way place, between the BQE and the Navy Yard, so it’s rarely crowded. Just remember “the rules”–the staff here has a low tolerance for folks who try to bend them. (Side note: it’s called Commodore Barry because he helped found the Navy Yard.)

Sent by Nicole, Lisa Riordan Seville and Jonathan Reiss. Photos from top by Captain Kidder and U.S. National Archives via Flickr.

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