I used to hear from people who said that they hated being in New York City in the summer, and would escape on the weekends to the Hamptons, upstate New York, the Poconos, etc. To me, sitting in traffic every Friday and Sunday, or dealing with peak-fare crowed trains, is not how I want to spend my weekend. I love staying in the city in the summer; there is so much to see and do.
For those who like to cool off with a dip in the pool, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation maintains several free pools throughout the city. Here in the Village there is the Tompkins Square Park Pool in the East Village, and the Tony Dapolito Pool, located in the now landmarked Phase I of the South Village Historic District.
The Tony Dapolito Pool is part of the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center (formerly the Carmine Street Recreation Center), located on the corner of 7th Avenue South and Clarkson Street. At this intersection, it’s actually four different streets that meet: 7th Avenue South, Clarkson Street, Carmine Street and Varick Street. The recreation center has an interesting history. It was originally opened in 1908 as a public bathhouse under the administration of Mayor William L. Strong. The New York State Legislature had passed a law in 1895 requiring free bathhouses in cities with populations over 50,000. Social reformers such as Jacob Riis had fought for this kind of legislation to counter the unhealthy conditions found in so many working class communities, where most people lived in overcrowded tenement buildings without indoor plumbing.
The building was designed by the prestigious architectural firm Renwick, Aspinwall and Tucker. The first two floors were where the showers and bathtubs were located, and the third floor was a gymnasium. The roof had an open-air classroom for anemic and sickly children. Later, a basketball court was added. In 1920 a new indoor pool was completed, and in 1938 this and all other bathhouses came under the supervision of the Department of Parks. The outdoor pool, designed by Aymar Embury II and built with Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) labor, was opened in 1939.
In 2004 the pool and the recreation center were re-named in memory of longtime Village resident and activist Tony Dapolito. Tony Dapolito was best known for his family’s Vesuvio Bakery on Prince Street, but also for his community service. He served as president of the First Precinct Police Community Council, chairperson of Community Board 2, and chairperson of its Parks Committee. He opposed Robert Moses’s plans for extending Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park, and for the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway.
The 1980 Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull has a scene that was filmed at the Carmine Street pool.
In 1987 artist Keith Haring created a colorful mural alongside the pool.
The pool is open until Labor Day, so there is still time to dive in!