During one of the hottest weeks on record, it was our pleasure to report last week that the city Parks Department had reconsidered its decision to close the Fort Totten pool. Much of the credit for this decision goes to City Councilman Dan Halloran, who fought to keep the city from shutting the only outdoor public pool in northeast Queens.
Although we recognize the city is still reeling from the ongoing recession and that tough decisions have to be made, the plan to close this pool did not make sense. For one thing, the city spent a large amount of money to make badly needed repairs to the pool after the closing of the fort.
In terms of the city budget, the cost of operating the pool is nominal: an estimated $125,000 for the season. There were some who suggested that last season the pool was underused. That may be because the pool has only been open to the public since 2007.
The city has wisely spent millions of dollars to convert the retired fort into a valued community resource. To do this, the city resisted the call to sell the property to developers for hundreds of millions of dollars. That decision showed an important recognition that the property could make a contribution to the quality of life in northeast Queens.
Closing the pool would have been a dreadful step backward, leaving a gigantic hole in the middle of the fort that was once such an important part of the community.
It occurs to us that the city could recoup the nominal operating costs and more by allowing local businesses to post advertisements along the fencing surrounding the pool. Some ballfields in the city are already doing this with great success.
In the words of Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance: “Look at this beautiful oasis and you can see why we are so protective of Fort Totten. … This is proof that when you have elected officials, concerned citizens and civic leaders working together, you can take on City Hall.”
Halloran is off to a good start.