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Everybody Into the Pool! Pols Break Ground at McCarren

Nearly 70 years after it was first constructed through a federal Works Progress Administration project, McCarren Park Pool is nearly ready to once again play host to Brooklyn’s swimmers, bathers and skaters.

Though a large mound of dirt seemed out of place in the middle of a concrete pool floor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn political leaders and city parks officials enthusiastically “broke ground” at the formerly blighted recreational facility on December 7. The pool, reconstructed by Rogers Marvell Architects, is set to open in 2012 after a $50 million funding allocation through the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC 2030.

“As part of PlaNYC, we pledged to restore McCarren Pool to its former glory,” said Mayor Bloomberg, who thanked city parks officials and community organizations who worked together reopen the park site. “The restored McCarren Pool will at long return as not only a swimming pool but also as a year-round recreational destination.”

One of the original 11 pools opened by Robert Moses in 1936, McCarren Park Pool, located on Lorimer Street between Driggs and Bayard avenues, was closed in 1984 due to deteriorating infrastructure and substantial community opposition. It remained shuttered until 2005 when the Open Space Alliance and the Parks Department worked with concert promoters to produce a series of rock shows and movies in the pool’s empty floor.

The pool’s renovation has been a longtime passion of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel, who have lobbied several mayoral administrations intensively for the necessary funding.

“Iam enormously grateful to Mayor Bloomberg,” said Spiegel. “Given the tough economic times, it is a wonderful thing that the mayor has done. Where we have nothing now, we will have a major swimming facility for two months and a recreational center for twelve months. It’s going to change the face of that park, which has undergone a tremendous renaissance in the past few years.”

Despite the freezing temperatures, community members warmly greeted parks administrators and Brooklyn leaders Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg), and Council member David Yassky (D-Williamsburg), for their work fighting to reopen the pool.

“I’ve lived through this with you Julius (Spiegel),” said Lentol. “When the pool closed in the 80s, we had no idea it would not open for years and years ahead. If you put your mind to something and have people with leadership skills involved, such as Mayor Bloomberg, things will happen.”

Thoughts quickly turned to future summer fun, as Mayor Bloomberg promptly challenged Markowitz to “jump into the pool together” when the pool opens, though Markowitz suggested despite sharing “the same birthday, the same good looks and the same vast fortune, only one of us looks like they need a few laps around the pool.”

“From the start, the mayor, Parks Department and the architects have approached the renovation in a way that takes into account the needs and desires of the community. Rather than simply ‘diving right in,” the planners let community members ‘pool their thoughts’ and make their own recommendations,” said Markowitz. “Because of that, as this project takes shape, I know things will go ‘swimmingly.’ Any way you look at it, this pool is what we need, right now. I can’t wait to say to Brooklyn and New York City: ‘Come in, the water’s fine!’”

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