It wasn’t until a few months ago that I even knew a public pool existed in Astoria. It is like big secret that only true Astorians know about. (Am I a true Astorian now?) But even after I found out the pool existed, I was not so into it.
A crowded, chlorine-loaded public pool in dirty New York City. Ew No, thank you.
But as I was jogging past the pool in the middle of the park on a perfect lazy Sunday, I couldn’t help but think that it didn’t look half bad. I went home, put on my bathing suit, grabbed my roommate, and we headed on our first adventure to the Astoria public pool.
When we finally arrived, there was a queue outside. This is when we began to realize how many rules there are just to enter the front gate. Going through the process of entering the pool felt rather like going through the airport security line. I was surprised they didn’t pat me down as I went through.
And my roommate and I took an extra long time because we didn’t know all the rules and kept screwing things up. Now, I’m pretty sure we have the rules imprinted on our brains.
- You can only wear a bathing suit to the pool, even if you aren’t going to swim. The man in front of me had on gym shorts and he was denied entrance for improper attire.
- You must have a lock for a locker. Even if you have nothing to put in a locker. You have to hold it up and show the guards as you enter the front gate.
- No eating, or drinking anything but water, in the pool area. (However, there is a fenced snack bar area.)
- You must put everything in your locker except for a towel, a book, sunscreen, and bottled water. The woman standing between the locker room and the pool insisted I remove my bathing suit cover up, even though I’m pasty white and my skin really shouldn’t be exposed to so much sun. (I now have a crazy painful sunburn as a result. Even at 5:00pm I need SPF 5,000).
- No electronics. No phones, no cameras, no Ipods, no e-readers. Nada. I actually support this rule the most.
- Everyone must shower before they get to the pool area. Really. They watch you rinse off in the lukewarm water before you can enter. Even if you aren’t going to swim. Although it frustrated me at the time, I have to say, I support this rule too.
- No pool toys are allowed. No noodles, no water guns, no floats. Although, a group of kids next to us were throwing water balloons at each other and the lifeguards didn’t seem to mind.
While there are a lot of rules that are strictly enforced, they are for good reason. The pool was so unbelievably clean and didn’t have the overwhelming smell of chlorine that I’ve come to associate with public pools. Because of the lack of electronics, people actually engaged with one another. Parents played with their kids instead of getting distracted by phone calls.
There are downsides, of course. After all, it is a free pool. There is bound to be some kind of catch. Besides the rules, there is the seating situation. There are only about a dozen actual chairs. The majority of people have to sit on wide concrete steps, which are uncomfortable. No lying down to tan here (not that I ever tan)! But the rock-hard steps just motivated me to stay in the water longer.
There is also an abandoned section of the pool that they are planning on renovating into a performance space!
Overall, my fears of uncleanliness and crowdedness were unjustified. Swimming at the Astoria public pool was the perfect way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I can’t wait to do it again next weekend (with more sunscreen).