Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Morning in Williamsburg: Groundbreaking at the McCarren Pool

We've just walked back down Lorimer Street from this morning's groundbreaking ceremonies at the McCarren Pool.

Although there should be lots of mainstream media coverage, we need to type fast right now to keep our fingers from getting frostbite and we wanted to post a few pics.

The $50 million renovation is part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative.

By the way, no ground was literally broken today. It's all symbolic shoveling of dirt, so a couple of hundred people were watching a metaphor.

Mayor Bloomberg apparently confused the pool with a brand of children's stroller since he kept calling it "Maclaren Pool" for the first half of his speech.

Only in the middle of his prepared address did he notice the correct spelling in the text, apparently, and he said, "McCarren, McCarren," as a look of relief came to the face of Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Seriously, though, as an old-timer who can remember when there was water in the pool and lots of people splashing around and all that - the last Brooklyn groundbreaking ceremony we attended was 40 years ago when Mayor Lindsay inaugurated the construction of the Kings Plaza Shopping Center - we're thrilled to know that the hipster haven of recent years will be returned to the community for its original purpose - and then some.

Mayor Bloomberg invoked the spirit of the WPA and Mayor LaGuardia's remarks upon the opening of the pool during the Depression. Later, Marty Markowitz would pointedly refer to LaGuardia as "the second-best mayor the city's ever had, a nod to Bloomberg's calling him "the best borough president Brooklyn ever had," we guess.

There was a big crowd of people,

lots of media,

the tent from the indispensible Open Space Alliance giving out needed hot coffee,

and even a dog sitting next to us in the front row.

We think canines will not be allowed to go in the water, though Bloomberg and Markowtiz pledged to be the first ones in the pool in a couple of years.

Marty did speak about opening the pool for the now-legendary JellyNYC concerts, the L Magazine Summerscreen films, and other events, saying the pool drew "hipsters, indie bands, cool people... everything Mayor Bloomberg and I are not."

Marty also said that the reopened pool will undoubtedly feature the best people-watching in New York City. We guess that means he won't be wearing a bathing suit. Only kidding - we have loved Marty since our Brooklyn College student government days in 1970, and he did say that it was good that the community didn't just "dive into" the planning for the pool and then proceeded to spout some more terrible puns, ending with the observation that everything had gone "swimmingly."

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape also spoke, saying the pool would provide exercise to kids and prevent diabetes. Sweet.

Also speaking were outgoing Councilmember David Yassky and Assemblymember Joe Lentol. Mayor Bloomberg came back to sum things up in his Spanish; his pronunciation is about at the level of ours after five years of classes at J.H.S. 285 and Midwood H.S.

Our friends here in the neighborhood actually never went to the pool in the 1960s and 1970s, instead coming to our backyard above-ground pool. But private swimmng pools in Brooklyn are rare; the only one we know in Williamsburg is on our block, which a neighbor got from a developer as compensation for allowing access to his backyard during the construction of the monstrous condo building next door. It's been mostly empty since it was finished, but we're certain that the new McCarren pool obviously will be filled with people on the first day.

When the mayor took questions, the woman in the red slacks said she lived just behind the pool on Bayard Street and complained about the noise. Mayor Bloomberg sent over an aide to get her name and no doubt solve the problem.

Other questions from the press dealt with the non-pool issues of the day, so we got to see what amounted to a regular mayoral press conference while we were freezing in the wintry winds. Below are Community Board 1 District Manager Gerry Esposito and other community bigwigs.

Former Community Board 1 Chair, 91-year-old Vincent Abate, who had the dream of reopening the McCarren Park Pool years and years ago, got the last word and the community's thanks.

The pool is scheduled to open in the summer of 2012.

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