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Gowanus Neighbors Gather to Save Beloved Community Pool

By Claire Oliver | June 29, 2013 3:33pm
 Community pool lies in path of proposal Gowanus Canal clean up plan.
Locals Fight to Save Double "D" Pool
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GOWANUS — Gowanus’ Double “D” swimming pool drew large crowds Saturday, not only for the start of its summer season, but also in a staged effort to save the watery community institution.

For more than 40 years neighbors from Gowanus, Boerum Hill and beyond have flocked to pool — nicknamed for its location between Douglass and Degraw Streets in Douglass/Greene Park.

During the summer, the pool offers free swimming lessons and free breakfast and lunch when school is out, and it serves as a cooling center in an area containing several public housing complexes.

“It’s a unique pool in New York,” said Maaike Bouwmeester, resident of Park Slope who has been using the pool for nearly three years and now brings her son, Colin Wright, 1. “It draws from so many different communities.”

Teddie Vietor, a resident of Windsor Terrace, uses the pool with her grandchildren.

“It’s very clean, very well-managed, very secure,” she said. “We use the [YMCA] in the winter, and this is a thousand times cleaner and better maintained.”

Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to excavate and build a raw sewage storage facility as part of its $500 million clean up of the highly contaminated Gowanus Canal.

Led by the Friends of Douglass/Greene Park, community members and local elected officials are working to ensure pool service is not interrupted, even if that means building an interim facility close by.

“We very much want to see the Gowanus Canal cleaned up, because a lot of people live there,” said Rachel Wile, a Cobble Hill resident and secretary of the Friends of Douglass/Greene Park. “But we want to make sure that, during the clean up process, the surrounding community is not negatively affected.”

The goal is to work with the EPA and officials on the state and city level so that Double “D” Pool remains visible.

“If you’ve lived in New York, you know that interim can often last 30 years,” said
JoAnn Simon, one of the founders of the Friends of Douglass/Greene Park told attendees at the rally, which included mayoral candidate and City Comptroller John Liu and City Councilman Steve Levin.

This isn’t the first time the pool has faced the threat of closure. Neighbors and the Friends group led a successful campaign to save the pool in 2010 when the Mayor’s office wanted to shutter it for budgetary reasons. It also circulated an online petition to save the pool that, to date, has received 952 signatures.

Simon said she’s received no official timeline of when work, if approved, would occur. She said residents don’t have a good sense of the project’s details, as the EPA may not know them itself, but they are working to remain informed.

The group’s petition was submitted to the EPA during the proposal’s initial comment period, which ended April 27. Ultimately, the final decision to build on the site lies with the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

“I’m excited by the response of the media and local officials,” Wile said. “The community is being treated with respect”