Public pools help provide vacations and recreation for some people who do not have the ability to leave New York City during the summer months. Public pools improve community bonds, encourage fitness for youth and families, increase public safety, and keep people cool during the summer heat. The Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) maintains and operates 79 outdoor swimming pools (including 17 mini-pools) and 12 indoor swimming pools dispersed across 64 facilities throughout the five boroughs. All outdoor pools are free and open to the public from late June until the Sunday after Labor Day with general hours of operation from 11AM to 7PM. In 2018, 1.7 million people visited DPR pools.
The City has a long history of providing recreational bathing and swimming to residents. In 1938, Commissioner Robert Moses launched a free swim program as a public safety initiative, in response to the reported 400 drownings in the City each year. DPR continues to offer free programs such as “Learn to Swim” to members of recreation centers that include indoor swimming pools. The program teaches approximately 7,000 children each summer. Also, children ages six through 17 are offered the Holiday Learn to Swim program during spring recess at pools across the City. Since 2018, DPR has upgraded 16 outdoor pools throughout each borough under the Cool Pools NYC initiative. The Cool Pools NYC initiative targeted pools that have not had any renovations since they were constructed in the 1970s.
On April 26, 2023, the Committee on Parks and Recreation, chaired by Council Member Shekar Krishnan, will hold a hearing to consider several pieces of legislation on identifying suitable locations for additional public swimming pools, reporting on staffing levels and training for the City’s pools and beaches programs, and providing swimming lessons for free to children aged 13 and younger.
Lack Pool Access
% of New Yorkers with more than
a 15-minute walk
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Public Pools in NYC
There are 91 pools distributed across 64 locations in NYC that are maintained by Parks – 79 outdoor and 12 indoor swimming pools dispersed throughout the five boroughs.
The most common types of pool are intermediate sized (28) and wading (24) pools. They make up about 31% and 26%, respectively, of all pools. Less common pools are olympic (15), large (5), and diving (4) pools.
Parks pools vary greatly in size. Mini Pools are the smallest at 40′ x 20′ and 3 feet deep. Wading Pools can be as small as 24′ x 24′ and 1 foot deep to 220′ x 92′ and 2.5 feet deep. Large Pools are ~100′ x ~50′ and 4 feet deep. Olympic Pools are >200′ x >100′ and around 4 feet deep. Diving Pools come in many sizes, but are at least 8′ deep.
Manhattan has the most pools (21 pools) and Staten Island the least (7 pools). Manhattan also has the overall best access to pools – 65% of Manhattan residents are able to walk to a pool in 15 minutes or less – and Queens has the worst access to pools – only 12% of residents are able to walk to a pool in 15 minutes or less.
We know that access to a pool nearby varies greatly depending on neighborhood, and there is currently introduced legislation seeking to identify city-owned sites where additional public swimming pools could be built. The legislation focuses on Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities. Though significant effort is required to survey the sites to understand if a given location could house a pool – we can at least identify which sites would be useful locations for a pool.
The below map shows in grey all the EJ Communities that don’t already fall within a 15 minute walk of a pool. We’ve added points representing city-owned land that is currently categorized as “no use” within that zone. For each “no use” land location on the map, we’ve found the population within a 15 minute walk who don’t already have an existing pool within a 15 minute walk. This captures the potential population that could be served from each location. A high number shows both a high population density and that the neighborhood doesn’t already have access to a pool – the ideal location to site a new pool.
By default the map only shows “no use” locations that would give more than 100,000 people new access to a pool, which highlights several neighborhoods that immediately pop out as having “no use” city-owned land, a high population density and low access to a pool. In the Bronx, Fordham Heights has 13 city-owned “no use” locations that meet the criteria. In Queens, Elmhurst and Corona stand out with 18 locations. In Brooklyn, Little Caribbean in Flatbush has 9 locations and Borough Park has 4 locations. Manhattan and Staten Island don’t have any locations that meet that criteria.
The “no use” city land locations shown on the map can be adjusted in the upper right hand corner of the map to show locations with smaller reach. You can click on each point to get more information about the site, including: the owner agency, the parcel name, the more specific use (eg “vacant land”, “no use – non residential structure”, etc), and the approximate number of people within a 15 minute walk who don’t currently have pool access.
Providing children 13 and younger with swimming lessons at no cost.
- The term “swimming lessons” means a program administered by the department to teach swimming and includes Learn to Swim and any similar or succeeding program.;
- Parks shall provide swimming lessons at no cost to a child within one year of the submission of an application for such lessons on behalf of such child, except that this provision only entitles such child to a particular course of instruction once at no cost. No child shall be denied swimming lessons because such child’s parent or guardian has not paid recreation center membership fees.
Public swimming pool locations and swimming lessons offered by the department of parks and recreation.
- The department of parks and recreation shall conduct a survey of sites, owned by the city of New York in each borough, to determine which of those sites are suitable for the construction of public swimming pools, provided that surveyed sites located in EJ areas, as such term is defined in section 3-1001 of the administrative code of the city of New York, are prioritized for analysis.;
- The department of parks and recreation, in consultation with the department of education, shall develop a plan to provide public access to suitable swimming pool facilities located in department of education buildings. Such plan shall be submitted to the mayor and the speaker of the council by no later than July 1, 2024.
Lifeguards and staff at public beaches and pools under the jurisdiction of the department of parks and recreation.
For feedback, comments, and questions please email DataInfo@council.nyc.gov.
Created by the NYC Council Data Team.O