Where can you swim, tan, and have an older woman force you to remove your underwear? Not just the Jersey Shore. This weekend, I discovered splashing, sun and a whole lot more are all here in our own concrete backyard–and it’s all totally FREE.
My friend Matt, my girlfriend and I wanted to go to the beach this Saturday. But the closest swim-able beach was 55 minutes away. The time, money and effort required were a buzzkill. We looked up hotel pools, but the prices were high and the best outdoor ones were only reserved for guests. That’s when I had an idea. “Why don’t we check out one of the public pools?”
Matt, a native New Yorker, laughed. “Those things are nasty,” he said. “They’re dirty and gross.” He lowered his voice. “You know, they attract some weird people.”
But I pressed on. Why spend the money and the time to go to a beach so far away, when we could swim and lay out right in Manhattan? The city pools were free, and one, the Asser Levy Pool, was only blocks away.
So we put on our bathing suits, grabbed our towels, and headed out to brave the wilds of the NYC public pool system.
Before going inside, we peeked through the gate and asked the lifeguard if there was anything we needed to know. Yes, it turns out. We needed a lock for the lockers, because nothing but towels and bottles of water are allowed in the pool area. So we bought two combination locks from the nearby CVS. At the front, the guard informed us key locks are preferred, because they’re harder to break into. But they let us in anyway.
Matt and I hit up the locker room to change. I braced myself for piles of feces and heroin junkies in the bathroom stalls. Instead, we got a clean place smelling of chlorine and a jolly, singing locker room attendant. “Lock up your valuables… put everything away… cause if you don’t… you’ll have a bad day…” Welcome to Bloomberg’s New York!
My girlfriend found a spot for us to lay our towels down, behind the lifeguard station, in the sun. We didn’t lay out long though. We sunk into the cool water, which didn’t give us strange rashes on first contact. The pool was small, but not overcrowded. Plenty of room to float, tread, and dunk my girlfriend. A smaller kiddie pool next to it kept the probably-not-potty-trained kids out.
Any weirdos around? No. Just families. A bunch of little kids. Some fat people. But to my surprise, not one homeless guy with his hands down his pants.
Matt and I raced from one end of the pool to the other. He won, but totally cheated by walking as I dodged little kids left and right. Also, I’m out of shape.
Drying off, I mentioned another pool I had seen on one of my random walks through the Lower East Side: The Hamilton Fish Pool. “Should we head there too?” my girlfriend asked. Yes, we should. If only to provide me with great Neighborbee Blog material.
So off we went. We shared a cab and got out near the corner of Houston and Pitt St.
We could see immediately that Hamilton Fish was a serious pool. The website says it was used by the U.S. Olympic team, and it was easy to imagine. The main pool was huge, and a smaller wading pool also dwarfed the ones at Asser Levy.
The lockers, however, were tiny. Matt and I discovered our things didn’t all fit, and like the other pool, only towels and water was allowed in. No problem– we found a spot just on the other side of the fence where we could leave our things but still be able to grab them if needed.
Then we entered the pool area. Or at least my girlfriend and I did. Matt reached the guard, and she asked him to flip his waistband. Was she checking for weapons? Matt does look like one bad dude.
“Can’t wear underwear in here,” the guard said.
“You gotta take that off.”
I tried a Google search to see if there was an explanation for this rule. But… lets just say that typing “underwear” and “public pools” into Google gives you some disturbing results.
Once Matt was freeballin’, we all enjoyed the pool. Once again, clean, lots of space to swim, and not one male thong sighted.
At 3:00, whistles blew from every direction. Time to empty the pool for cleaning. Little kids climbed out, quickly spun, and cannonballed, flipped, and leaped back in, getting in some last dips.
Satisfied with our city swims, we walked along Stanton St. to Meatball Shop, where we snacked on some meatball sliders (choose your meatball and sauce!) and ice cream sandwiches (choose your cookie and ice cream!). They didn’t seem to care we were in bathing suits.
All in all, a pretty cool way to spend a very hot Saturday in New York City. I’m happy to report that two days later, no odd rashes have developed. In fact, strangely, a burn on my arm seems to have completely healed. Could New York City pool water actually derive from some mystical, magical wellspring of renewal and eternal life?
Maybe that’s why they don’t let underwear in?
Also on Neighborbee, check out Bee Wheelin’s trip to a Brooklyn Public Pool.