This article was originally published by The CITY on Dec.8
A Queens public pool that’s been closed since before the pandemic due to a crumbling roof is set to reopen early next year with a ceiling netting to catch flaking concrete.
But the reopening of the $67 million Flushing Meadows Corona Park Aquatic Center will be only temporary, according to the city Department of Parks and Recreation. The pool will close again after officials can figure out designs for a reconstructed roof.
The center — which houses a pool integral to New York City’s failed 2012 Olympic bid and an ice rink managed by a private operator — will undergo a “full renovation,” but not until blueprints for a new roof are ready, a Parks official acknowledged.
The pool originally shuttered on Jan. 13, 2020, for what the parks department said at the time would be “at least six weeks” for “emergency repairs” to the roof.
During a virtual City Council oversight hearing Tuesday on improving access to recreational programs and facilities amid the pandemic, Deputy Commissioner of Parks Margaret Nelson announced a vague date for when swimmers might be able to get back in the water.
“It will reopen in January, February, sometime in the new year,” she said. “We will keep it open until that larger project starts, which is yet to be determined.”
THE CITY previously reported that despite the architecturally ambitious center’s closure, as many as a dozen workers showed up daily even though no swimmers were present.
Of the Parks Department’s 36 recreation centers citywide, 28 are currently open. That’s up from the initial 13 centers that reopened in June to existing members. Facilities opened to new members as well starting in September — with one year’s free membership as an enticement. The free memberships are available for new registrants through the end of 2021.
But the Flushing center is one of five currently closed for capital construction projects.
Three recreation centers — Red Hook in Brooklyn, and St. Mary’s and St. James in The Bronx — sustained damage from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1.
The St. Mary’s center reopened Monday, while the St. James and Red Hook facilities remain shuttered.
Sorrentino Recreation Park in Far Rockaway is closed while it is being used as a COVID testing site. Kwame Ture Recreation Center in The Bronx is closed for use as a vaccination site.
Vital Community Need
David Small, who said he has multiple health challenges, signed up for a free membership at the Red Hook Recreation Center in October.
The city is soliciting architectural services for the reconstruction of the Red Hook Recreation Center, March 2, 2021.
“We joined it, but each day we go back it’s still closed,” Small, 50, told THE CITY. “It’s not in use for the community, and it’s like we don’t have any other place to go.”
Decontamination of soil on the nearby track, baseball and soccer fields — as well as work at the Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex — has turned the area into a massive construction site. The work has all but eliminated recreational space, save for a couple soccer fields.
The Red Hook center’s boiler sustained severe damage in Ida-related flooding. A Parks spokesperson, Anessa Hodgson, told THE CITY Parks is working to secure a mobile heating unit for a temporary fix.
Hodgson assured THE CITY that closure was not indefinite, but did not provide a reopening date.
“We fully anticipate that the Red Hook Recreation Center will reopen in the near future, it is not closed indefinitely,” she said.
Hodgson also noted that the current closure is separate from a planned federal project to fix damage to the recreation center, which was caused by Hurricane Sandy nearly a decade ago.
Small said the recreation center is a crucial resource for local residents, especially those who have medical issues like he does.
“We need this,” he said.
THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.