Mayor Invests $1B+ For New Pools, Upgrades From Harlem To Hollis

June 18, 2024

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue today launched Let’s Swim NYC.

Let’s Swim NYC is a more than $1 billion capital investment in building, improving, and protecting New York City’s public pools over the course of five years (between Fiscal Year 2024 and Fiscal Year 2028). This funding will mark the city’s highest period of investment in swimming infrastructure since the 1970s. Through Let’s Swim NYC, the city is bringing needed funding to 39 pools, including building two brand new indoor pools and fully renovating three additional pools. The historic investment will expand safe water access throughout the five boroughs, promoting public safety and helping more New Yorkers learn life-saving water safety skills.  

“… available to use by student and school groups …”

Building on these investments, today, New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks unveiled two newly-completed, state-of-the-art swimming pools at the Harry S. Truman High School campus in the Bronx. Throughout the 2023-2024 school year, dedicated teams updated seven pools across six city campuses, ensuring that students have access to safe and modern aquatic facilities. The updated pools will be available to use by student and school groups and — in accordance with Chancellor’s Regulations and with the proper extended-use permits — by outside organizations during off-school hours.  

New York City’s pools and beaches are incredible places for New Yorkers to come together, learn to swim, and beat the heat — and as climate change makes heat waves like this week’s more common and more severe, the need for pools has never been greater,” said Mayor Adams. “We’re making a splash with our billion-dollar investment over five years, which will open up more, better pools in all five boroughs for working-class New Yorkers to freely use. That’s how we make New York City a more livable place for everyone lucky enough to call the greatest city in the world home.” 

“This week’s heat surge reminds us that we need to use every tool to beat the heat — sometimes that’s as simple as suiting up and jumping in,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “We take real pleasure in delivering infrastructure that does double duty, delivering both safety and joy. We’ll see you poolside!” 

“… pools play an important role in the well-being of all New Yorkers …”

“Whether it is a day with the family, a trip with friends, or a venture for yourself, the city’s public pools play an important role in the well-being of all New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “These investments will increase access and ensure the city’s public pools in every borough are a resource for years to come.” 

“We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of this renovation, as well as a year of incredible strides across the city to ensure our pools are functional for our students,” said DOE Chancellor Banks. “These facilities not only promote physical fitness and wellness, but also foster a sense of community and pride within the school community. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our partners at the SCA and NYC Parks for their invaluable collaboration in making aquatics more accessible for our students.” 

“At our free public pools across the city, New Yorkers of all backgrounds can relax, get exercise, and cool off on hot summer days,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Donoghue. “But public pools are more than a luxury — they’re a vital public resource that promotes public health and makes our communities safer from extreme heat. With these ambitious projects amounting to more than $1 billion, we’re proud to be part of an administration that is investing in our public pool network to ensure all New Yorkers can access the safe, well-maintained public spaces they deserve.” 

“Swimming is one of life’s simple joys that should be accessible to all.” 

 “We are a waterfront city and yet swimming resources have been out of reach for too many New Yorkers,” said New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “The city’s investments are a major step for health and equity. Swimming is one of life’s simple joys that should be accessible to all.” 

“Public pools are fantastic — and fun — cool options that help New Yorkers beat the heat,” said New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol. “This investment into our city’s pools will provide New Yorkers summer fun, exercise, and a refuge from heat. I applaud this huge commitment and look forward to diving in!” 

“Renovating school pools is a critical step towards fostering a healthier and more active generation. Swimming is not only a vital life skill but also an excellent way to enhance physical fitness and overall well-being,” said New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) President and CEO Nina Kubota. “By investing in these aquatic facilities citywide, we are providing students with the opportunity to learn to swim, stay active, and develop lifelong habits of health and fitness. These improvements are essential for promoting a balanced education that values both physical and mental development and the SCA is happy to partner with our city’s public schools’ Division of School Facilities and NYC Parks to make this happen.” 

“We’ve always said our public spaces must provide an oasis,” said New York City Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. “With this massive investment in the city’s pools we’re taking that mandate quite literally, with miles of infrastructure devoted to keeping New Yorkers safe and refreshed.” 

Approximately $85 million out of the more than $1 billion will be invested in state of good repair projects to protect aging infrastructure, including pool tub repairs, electrical and structural work, utility and ventilation upgrades, and new decks, lighting, and filtration systems.   

More than 60 percent of NYC Parks pools are less than one-quarter of a mile from a New York City Housing Authority campus and in communities with high Heat Vulnerability Index scores. Let’s Swim NYC is one of 10 strategic initiatives being announced in the Vital Parks for All plan, NYC Parks’ forthcoming plan to equitably strengthen the city’s health, environment, and communities through the city’s parks system. Vital Parks for All will focus investments in living infrastructure, including public parks, greenways, pools, playgrounds, wild areas, and recreation centers that host the civic life of the city and make communities healthier, safer, and more livable.  

This summer, New Yorkers will be able to enjoy upgraded outdoor public pools in all five boroughs: 

  • Astoria Pool in Queens will reopen after an approximately $19 million reconstruction, with a brand-new pool shell, deck, and lighting; state-of-the-art filtration and chemical treatment systems; and upgraded heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and electrical equipment. 
  • NYC Parks will open a fully-renovated mini-pool at Edenwald Playground in the Bronx. 
  • New colorful concrete pool decks, new plantings for color and shade, new benches, fencing, and ADA ramps will greet visitors to John Jay and Sheltering Arms Pools in Manhattan and West Brighton Pool in Staten Island, all modeled after the Cool Pools initiative
  • Less visible but vital renovations will keep pools operating smoothly, including new utility lines and HVAC systems at Betsy Head Pool in Brooklyn, Lyons Pool in Staten Island, and Highbridge and Jackie Robinson Pools in Manhattan that will ensure these free public amenities continue to serve generations to come. 

As previously announced, the city is also building a new $147 million recreation center with an indoor pool at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, Queens and an indoor pool at the $141 million Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. These two pools represent the first added to New York City parks since 2008. In partnership with the Central Park Conservancy, the city is also investing $60 million to open a new and improved pool at the Harlem Meer in place of the former Lasker Pool, providing Harlem residents with a beautiful new pool and rink facility, thoughtfully incorporated into the landscape of Central Park’s north end. The pool is scheduled to open in the summer of 2025. 

Beyond today’s major capital investment in the city’s pools, the Adams administration has also taken strong steps to combat a nationwide lifeguard shortage to ensure that as many of New York City’s pools and beaches can be open for safe swimming as possible this summer. In late May, an arbitration panel issued an award in the city’s ongoing negotiations with the bargaining unit representing city lifeguards that will functionally pave the way for the city to be able to hire more lifeguards, allow more swimming capacity at beaches and pools over the coming summers, and improve operations of the city lifeguard program. Among other things, the award will allow the city to modify the qualification for lifeguards assigned to shallow water pools and modernize the vision requirements to be more in line with state regulations and industry standards. This builds on the city’s agreement with District Council 37 (DC37) earlier this year to permanently improve the pay of city lifeguards to $22 an hour as of this summer, along with a $1,000 per year bonus for returning lifeguards.  

“Improvements like those in today’s Let’s Swim NYC announcement are critical in keeping New York City resilient in the face of climate change’s warming temperatures,” said Chad Purkey, interim executive director, Association for a Better New York (ABNY). “ABNY applauds the more than $1 billion capital investments at NYC Parks’ public pools and New York City public school sites, and the improved access to safe swimming opportunities they provide New Yorkers.” 

“… the Harlem Meer will be a model of how public facilities can be transformed …”

The Central Park Conservancy is looking forward to welcoming New Yorkers to the new, state-of-the-art public pool in the Park’s north end for the 2025 pool season. The pool at the Harlem Meer will be a model of how public facilities can be transformed to serve their communities,” said Betsy Smith, president and CEO, Central Park Conservancy. “As the Conservancy’s most significant and complex project to date, the $160 million center will provide sorely needed access for Harlem and northern Manhattan to year-round swimming, skating, and access to nature. We’re grateful to the city for their continued partnership in helping us reimagine this landscape and important new facility.” 

“I commend Mayor Adams for this important investment and making swim access and equity a top priority for the city,” said Sharon Greenberger, president and CEO, YMCA of Greater New York, and co-founder, NYC Citywide Lifeguard & Aquatics Taskforce. “The YMCA looks forward to continuing our work to support water safety and ensuring every child in New York City can safely enjoy the city’s pools and beaches.”  

“At Children’s Aid, we understand the vital role that access to safe, modern aquatic facilities plays in the health and well-being of our children and communities,” said Phoebe C. Boyer, president and CEO, Children’s Aid. “Mayor Adams’ Let’s Swim NYC initiative is a monumental step forward in ensuring that all New Yorkers, especially our youth, can enjoy the benefits of swimming and water safety education. We are proud to support this effort and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on our city’s future.” 

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