For McCarren Pool Security, Swimmers Turn to 'Lock Man'

By Meredith Hoffman on July 20, 2012 8:23am 

WILLIAMSBURG — The re-opening of the renovated McCarren Pool has been fraught with lines, brawls and even a diaper malfunction. But for one Brooklyn entrepreneur, it's been a money-making bonanza.

Leaning against McCarren Park's fence in his tank top and sneakers, Angel Wilburn seemed to be resting his robust muscles from a track workout — but instead, he lay in wait for disappointed would-be swimmers to stream from the pool to buy his wares.

"Go get a lock from that guy over there," park staffers told potential patrons who had been turned away for lack of a proper device to secure their belongings.

"People call me the 'Lock Man,'" boasted Wilburn, 49, who literally held the keys to their salvation from Wednesday's 100-degree heat. "I thought maybe I should get a T-shirt that says, 'Lock Man.'"

Wilburn became an overnight success in Greenpoint, grossing an estimated $250 each day selling locks to unprepared Brooklyn bathers who had ventured to the pool without the means to safeguard their gear in McCarren's lockers.

One client who sauntered in his swim trunks to Wilburn's post perused the shiny line of products and shook his head.

"We didn't know you needed a lock. It's tyranny!" the ousted aquanaut half-jested before handing Wilburn $5 for his purchase.

"It's opportunity!" Wilburn retorted, smiling. "So many people come unprepared...it's lucrative. Why not?"

Wilburn — an energy contractor between jobs who started off selling water bottles at the newly opened pool — stumbled into his goldmine when swimmer after swimmer approached him with the same request for locks.

"I brought 10 locks," he said of his first day switching products, "and in 15 minutes I'd sold all of them."

Wilburn, a Williamsburg resident who said he purchases locks from a wholesale warehouse in the neighborhood, claimed he easily sells 50 locks a day, seven days a week.

"The police know me, the Parks workers know me," he bragged — and sure enough, pool security across the street spent the afternoon routing lock-less swimmers to Wilburn's post.

"They told us our lock was too small," lamented one frustrated Queens resident Anna Jagla, who held out her quarter-sized lock and key she said had gained her entrance earlier in the month. "They said, 'Go buy one from the guy across the street, the guy is selling locks for $5.'"

A spokeswoman for the Parks Department said that all public pools have requirements for appropriate locks and sizes in order to enter, but she would not comment on whether McCarren enacted stricter requirements after recent incidents of arrests and thefts at the pool.

And Wilburn, who witnessed part of Tuesday's fight at the pool between three swimmers and a group of police officers, said locks had been in demand since the pool's long-awaited opening June 28.

Wilburn can normally be found by the park fence, peddling his goods, but he can also be found at his other McCarren locations — exercising on the track or taking a dip in the pool's cool water.

"I'll be here as long as it lasts," he said, as another batch of lock-lorn customers approached. "It's the best job."

 

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