Hamilton Fish Pool Will Remain Open During City Renovations

Some expected the worst in a recent CB3 meeting about the renovation of Hamilton Fish Park.

Katie Pruden Sep 19, 2022

Community Board 3 met on Thursday September 15 to discuss the proposed plan for the renovation of Hamilton Fish Recreation Center, a neighborhood gem since the beginning of the 20th Century.  

Some worried the renovations might close the public pool at Hamilton Fish, as part of a wider city trend toward getting rid of public green space, but the renovation plans only included additions to improve wheelchair accessibility. 

The project’s manager, Abkor Gulaid, presented the design plans which will create wheelchair ramps at the two entrances of the park, as well as repairs to the main and wing buildings by those entrances on Houston and Stanton Street and reorganization of space inside the Recreation Center.

Hamilton Fish Recreation Center was last renovated in 1992 and requires “structural and programmatic” changes, according to Gulaid’s presentation. Some of the new additions will be reconstructed stairs and code compliant ramps in order to improve ADA access to the main building, as well as the East Houston side wing building, which is used as a women and children’s changing room. 

The addition of a ramp to the changing room will require the removal of a single tree, which will be transplanted and a new tree will be planted. 

The main building, which currently is used for exercise and community gathering, including pool and foosball tables, will be redesigned so that the dance studio and cardio equipment will be on the first floor and the youth programming space will be moved to the basement. 

These designs were made after collecting years of feedback from staff of the center and its users, according to Ken Conyers, NYC Park’s Chief of Recreation. 

Bill Buchen, a Hamilton Fish swimmer of 45 years, raised concern about where the children who use the Recreation Center will go once construction starts. The Hamilton Fish Library, which is attached to the park has also been closed due to construction for the past two years. “These kids need a place to go,” Buchen said. 

The Hamilton Fish pool, also known as the Pitt Pool for its location on Pitt Street, was built during the Great Depression with the intention to give the children of lower-income families a space to play and escape the heat of the summer. “It’s everyday, lines are down the block,” said Harriet Hirshorn, an organizer for East River Park Action, recalling the past summer months. The Recreation Center, however, is open year round, while the pool is closed during the school-year season. 

With its importance to the community, there was a high level of concern about the possible closure of the pool regarding these previously unknown plans.  

In the past year, the city approved the demolition of the 58 acres of green space that was East River Park. Now, they are threatening a two-year closure of Wagner Park, a beloved waterfront in Battery Park. The parks are being elevated and remade to fend off rising ocean waters caused by climate change, but critics say the approach the city and the state have taken to resiliency projects is needlessly destructive and imposed on the communities that are supposed to benefit from them. 

So when the renovation of Hamilton Fish Recreation Center appeared on Community Board 3 people like Hurshman feared the worst. 

“Nobody is angry yet, they are scared,” said Hirshorn before the meeting on Thursday. 

The community can rest easier knowing the pool will remain untouched. However, with the uncertain future of important public gathering spaces, like Wagner Park, the fight is not yet over.

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