For most of us, it came as a wonderful surprise. On July 4, a swimming pool called the Floating Pool Lady opened on the waterfront below Brooklyn Heights. The occasion marked the first time in more than 200 years that the public has had access to this area.
For years activists have been working with officials to transform this section of the Brooklyn waterfront — long the site of abandoned piers, vacant warehouses, weed-filled parking lots and rusting storage sheds — into parkland. The pool and its adjacent 40,000 square foot sandy “beach” represent the first stage of the realization of their plans.
The brainchild of former parks department official Ann Buttenwieser, the pool was built on an old Lousiana cargo barge and moored among the piers on the East River. In addition to the handicapped-accessible pool, organizers installed an open-air shower, a snack bar, bike racks, volleyball nets, dressing rooms, porta-potties, chair and umbrella rentals and picnic tables.
Free shuttle bus service brought visitors directly to the pool from nearby subway stations. Due to its small size (maximum capacity is only 175 persons), gaining entrance to one of the tightly scheduled, carefully monitored 1 1/2 hour swim sessions was somewhat complicated.
First, potential swimmers waited for the announcement that it was time to line up to obtain wristbands for the next available swim session. The wristbands, which were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, served as admission tickets. They were color keyed to the day’s the scheduled sessions: on weekdays, four time slots were available; on weekends, six were scheduled.
Once wristbands were obtained, visitors waited for an announcement telling them it was time to line up for admisssion. Some people were turned away every day, and many had long waits, but they didn’t lack things to do.
Visitors could spend time lying on the beach, listening to the music, munching on food prepared at the concession stand, playing frisbee and volleyball, dancing and enjoying the astonishing views of New York Harbor.
Sadly, the Floating Lady was only a temporary feature. Its stay in Brooklyn was limited to two months (officals plan to move it to another borough next summer) and this was its final day. Fans of the pool rushed to the closing-day festivities and the chance to take one last dip, eat one last tofu dog, fly one last kite and get one last sunburn.