UPPER EAST SIDE — For many kids who live in the city's public housing complexes, knowing how to swim is a luxury and being comfortable in the water is a rarity.
That's why Plus Pool, an organization pushing for the creation of a floating pool in the East River or somewhere else in the city, has teamed up with the New York City Housing Authority to host free swimming lessons for kids at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Athletic Center on the Upper East Side this summer.
About 60 children between the ages 8 and 13 who live in the East River, Washington, Wilson and Lexington houses started a free seven-class lesson last week that promises to make them comfortable in the water and gives them the basics they need to stay afloat, according to Jeff Franklin, the co-founder and director of community and education for Plus Pool.
"The mission [of the Summer Bluefish Swim Program] is to get people connected to the water and the first way to do that is to get them to learn how to swim," he said. "We saw a large number of New Yorkers living in public housing, where kids are in need of these resources and there's such a pool of people in need of these resources, so it became the perfect connection. If kids don't learn how to swim at this age, they likely won't learn how to swim and as an adult, that becomes a safety hazard."
Each 45-minute class — held in two, separate, seven-lesson segments at the Sacred Heart Athletic Center — focuses on basic swimming moves and techniques, from breathing to leg and arm strokes and lap swimming, Franklin said.
"No matter what, the kids always have a huge smile on their face," he added. "A few parents said they were so excited that their kids love being the water and that they're happy to have chance to get in the water. It's the small things — kids might not be comfortable getting their heads under water or jumping into the deep end, but at the end of the class they're doing it with confidence and they can see the opportunity for where they want to take it next."
The swim classes are directed by the aquatics center's director, Warren Perry, and taught by GoSwim.
Franklin said it's Plus Pool's hope to be able to accept more kids and to one day have a full-fledged swim team if their floating pool project finally opens. The organization is still currently seeking out the perfect location for it and doing a number of studies.
Ukah Busgith, NYCHA's senior director of family partnerships, said the second year of the program will serve triple the amount of kids as last year.
"This year, we're very excited to hear from Plus Pool again and that they've invited 60 kids to participate in the program," she said. "Swimming is a life skill."
She added that the partnership with Plus Pool is an example of how NYCHA works with different organizations to bring services to its communities under its NextGen program.
The program is a partner of the USA Swimming Foundation's "Make a Splash" initiative for water safety.
The first seven-class segment kicked off July 5, with the second beginning on July 17.
The city's Parks Department also has three free swimming sessions for adults and children this summer. Participants are chosen from a lottery across all five boroughs.