Mayor launches billion dollar investment in NYC pools amid calls to extend pool season

Astoria Pool, opened in 1936, is the largest pool in NYC out of 39 public sites.
Photo courtesy of NYC Parks Dept.

With increasingly hotter summers expected in years to come, the city announced a massive investment in NYC pools this week shortly before dozens of pools are scheduled to open for the season on June 26.

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation launched Let’s Swim NYC, a $1 billion investment in building, improving and protecting the city’s pools over five years. They noted that this is the largest investment in pools since the 1970s. 

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The initiative will infuse the 39 existing pools with funding, build two brand-new indoor pools and fully renovate three outdoor pools. The repairs will include new decks, filtration systems and structural work to protect aging infrastructure. 

Astoria Pool, which is the city’s largest pool, holding 1 million gallons, is scheduled to reopen for the season after being closed for nearly two years for a renovation. The $19 million in upgrades created a brand new pool deck, shell and lighting along with a state-of-the-art filtration and chemical treatment system. 

At Roy Wilkins Park in St Albans, the building of a new $147 million recreation center with an indoor pool is currently underway. It is one of two pools, along with another incoming indoor pool at Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center in East Flatbush, to be added to the city’s parks since 2008. 

“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 Sue 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.” 

In May, the Parks Department also announced that they are considering off-season activation at six pools in the winter months. This could bring active and engaging programming pool deck programming to increase recreation options for communities. 

Of the six pools being considered, Astoria Pool is being considered for its diving pool plaza from October to March, now that it is renovated. 

With the first heat wave of the year underway, some elected officials are questioning why the city’s pools open weeks after the city’s beaches. They see it as a lost opportunity for New Yorkers to cool down during most of June when temperatures rise. 

Council Member Shekar Krishnan, who chairs the Committee on Parks and Recreation, announced that he is sponsoring legislation to extend the operating season of the city’s pools to run from mid-May to mid-October. The bill is also proposing that pool hours be extended from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

He pointed out that on sweltering days, pools become “useless” if they are closed, and beaches become “dangerous” if they are understaffed. 

“In the longer term, we need to build more public pools. For a city as large as ours, we have shockingly few. My own district – covering the dense immigrant communities of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside – has zero. This deprives our families of not just the cooling benefits but also the life-saving water safety education provided at public pools.”