The Red Hook Pool (inspired by Sachi Clayton’s post Swimming Pools)
One.. two.. one.. two.. touch, pull, push, glide. Three.. four.. three.. four.. touch, pull, push, glide. Seven.. eight.. seven.. eight.. touch, pull, push, glide. Stroke.. stroke.. breath, stroke.. stroke.. breath. Glide.
The morning sun is refracted in the water. The water shimmers and sparkles. The water is quiet. The lanes are filled with swimmers partaking in a morning ritual. Their arms twirl in a constant rhythm. Their legs kick in sympathy with their arms. From afar it looks and has the feeling of the slow twirl of windmills. And like a windmill, the arms and legs of the swimmers are creating energy, propelling each swimmer forward. Each swimmer’s stroke is unique, like handwriting.
Every summer New York City opens its pools to the public around the 4th of July. Some of the pools offer lap swimming for the more serious minded swimmers in the morning and in the evening. The Red Hook Pool is one of the New York City pools that offers this precious bit of time for lap swimming. The Red Hook pool is a large pool, gargantuan actually and a third of it is for the sole use of lap swimming. Between 7:00 AM and 8:30 AM a consistent group converges on the lovely lonely streets of Red Hook in a race to make it to the pool. Once there we don our caps and goggles and jump in the water for what is essentially the best part of the day for many of us. It is the time to partake in a completely solitary, thoughtful aquatic experience. Your thoughts are completely your own, no distractions except yourself. You can let your mind wander or endlessly count five.. six.. five.. six.. stroke.. stroke.. stroke, fulfilling a completely rewarding and self-stimulating aquatic song. It is an invigorating and ultimately relaxing experience, despite the deep cardiovascular action taking place deep in the body. And the best part is you feel the pleasure in your body for most of the day. You stand taller, walk strongly and feel more calm than others around you. The subway is late, so what, I just swam a mile.
The Red Hook Pool opened August 17th 1936 , constructed by the Parks Commission with the WPA funding behind it. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia did the dedication of this beautiful one million dollar pool with Robert Moses the Parks Commissioner by his side. The Sycamores were planted in a straight row on either side of the entrance. 40,000 attended the opening ceremony that night. It was the eleventh pool opened in what even then was considered a slum neighborhood with a heavy industrial element. Only recently has that description begun to change. For many years Red Hook seemed timeless and now that is not true.
If you ever have the chance to visit the Red Hook Pool, please make a point of seeing the three large intaglio plaques that sit high on the wall facing the pool. Each plaque depicts different athletes taking part in a sport. Tennis, basketball and track (hurdles) are represented in these wonderful WPA cement gems.
Sachi Clayton's blog Swimming Pools
A New York Times article on the municpal pools.
A New York Times slideshow on the city pools.
Lastly, the New York Times article on the opening day of the Red Hook Pool dated 8/18/1936.