On the sweltering day after city schools closed for summer, cooling down was easy in Hunts Point.
Hundreds made a splash in the Floating Lady Pool, the seven-lane pool on a barge that has been moored off Barretto Point Park every summer since 2008. Other pool-goers in flip-flops waited on the shore, as the pool reached its 230-person capacity minutes after opening on its first day of the summer season.
The pool will operate every day until Labor Day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 4 to 7 p.m. Swimming classes will be available throughout July, and free lunch service will be provided for children.
“A majority of kids don’t have summer camps in this neighborhood,” said William Valentin, 45, who chaperoned 18 young people. He and his group began waiting at the pool gates at Barretto Point Park at 9 a.m. “I’ll bring the whole block. The kids for the first time were happy–they were excited,” he said.
The pool attracts around 30,000 visits every summer. In 2010, the MTA discontinued shuttlebus service that brought pool-goers from the 6-train stop across the desolate 11-block stretch of warehouses and truck traffic to the pool and the adjacent 5-acre riverside park. Parks officials noted that elimination of the shuttle that brought bathers through the seedy stretch has reduced the number of pool visitors, but not by much.
“Less people come, but it’s still always crowded,” said lifeguard Francisco Lorenzo, 39. “All the other pools are on the East Side of the Bronx.”
The floating pool originally opened in Brooklyn Heights, but was moved to Hunts Point the following year, and is now owned by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“I love this pool. If I can make it everyday, I’ll make it everyday,” said Nataly Guzman, 17. The pool gives the neighborhood something to look forward to, she said.
For the first time since its relocation to Hunts Point, the Floating Lady remained moored off Barretto Point Park in the off-season, instead of being moved to New Jersey.
South Bronx residents who remember when their kids cannonballed off the pier into the East River between the fertilizer company, NYOFCo, and the water treatment facility, hope the Floating Lady won’t float away.
“We opened all 55 of our pools,” said Zachary Feder, a spokesperson for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
To the delight of bathers, budget cuts have not led to any Bronx pool closures.
“When it’s hot, hot, hot you can still have fun–you could be on the river and still having fun,” said 12-year-old Carlos Guzman.