McCarren Pool's Calm Reopening Brings Tight Security and Second Chances
GREENPOINT — The squeals were quieter, the crowds thinner, the waiting lines nonexistent — and the security strict as ever, as McCarren Pool opened for its second year Thursday after the renovated hub's tumultuous first summer season.
First-time visitors and devoted swimmers eagerly splashed, floated and flipped in the cool water — and some crossed their fingers that last year's brawls, petty crime and pepper spray incident were a thing of the 37,950-square-foot pool's past.
"When it opened last year with all the reports of drama and fights I lost interest in coming," said South Williamsburg resident Megan Meyer, 26, who made her inaugural trip to the pool Thursday. "This year I was like, 'Why not?' I'll give it a try. Now [the city] is more prepared."
At the public pool's entrance a line of cop vehicles parked along Lorimer Street and Parks Department staff checked that visitors wore bathing suits, had locks for lockers and brought no bags or electronics to the deck. But to McCarren's frequent bathers, the cop presence and security were similar to last year.
"I definitely noticed more police vehicles, but they're empty. I'm not sure why they're here, if it's for intimidation purposes," said Bronx middle school teacher Kat Keith, who recalled coming to the pool almost every day last year. "And cops weren't as present on the pool deck."
Keith said she had seen no rowdiness or incidents during her morning visits at McCarren last summer, and she claimed the pool was the center activity of her vacation.
"This pool is what keeps me in the neighborhood," said Keith, 32. "I love this pool because the neighborhood is a variety of communities and you have a little bit of everyone here. You can hear people speaking Polish, and see 80-year-old men swimming laps."
A spokeswoman for the city's Parks Department said about 1,500 people visited McCarren daily last summer and that the city had increased enforcement when some visitors challenged the pool's rules.
"This pool, built in the 1930s, had been closed as a pool facility since 1984 and most people in the neighborhood were not familiar with the rules and some did not appreciate at first the low tolerance for dangerous behavior," said the spokeswoman Meghan Lalor. "We increased enforcement and, as a result, thousands continued to enjoy the pool."
And she noted that the city had indeed prepared more overtly with security this year.
"In advance of this season we have again been working closely with NYPD borough command and the local precinct and will continue to do so," Lalor said. "In addition, Parks enforcement patrol officers are on hand to enforce the rules and ensure all pool-goers have a good experience."
Meanwhile, for Maribel Baez, 48, and her niece Jada Rivera, 11, no skirmishes could shake their devotion to the pool.
"It's beautiful," Rivera said.
"I walked here all the way from South 10th Street," Baez said of the 25-block haul. "McCarren is the best."