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The Douglass-Degraw pool, a cool respite for thousands of inner-city kids in Gowanus, will not be open this summer, the city quietly announced this week, citing budget cuts.
The pool, along Nevins Street between Douglass and Degraw streets, is the lone Brooklyn watering hole out of four citywide that will be shuttered, a cost-cutting move the city says will save $1.4 million.
“It was a difficult decision but the immediate area surrounding the pool is industrial — not residential, whereas many other pools in Brooklyn are directly adjacent to public housing,” said Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson.
The pool is across from a truck repair yard and a brass and copper company’s warehouse, but the surrounding blocks are also home to dense public housing developments, including the Wyckoff Gardens, the Gowanus Houses, and a development on Warren Street.
And the Brooklyn Boulders climbing gym a half-block from the pool attracts thousands of kids — many of whom were hoping to use the Douglass-Degraw pool to cool off.
“This is very much a bummer,” said Brendan Hendry, a manager at Brooklyn Boulders, which was planning to incorporate the pool into its summer programming. “I was very much looking forward to having a pool in the neighbohrood.”
Charlene Nimmons, the president of the Wyckoff Gardens’ resident’s association, saw a larger problem than just inconvenienced climbers.
“You have over 1,000 residents right here in Wyckoff, another 2,000 plus in Gowanus, and 500 in the Warren Street houses — to say it is an ‘industrial area’ is an insult to us,” she charged. “Our families want to cool down, too.”
The startling news made residents more than a little hot under the collar.
“The city is definitely doing the wrong thing!” said resident Lois Boyd. “You are condemning black and Hispanic neighborhoods.”
Park advocates were also taken off guard by the closing.
“They gave me no warning at all,” said Sue Wolfe, the president of the group Friends of Douglass/Greene Park.
Along with public housing residents in Gowanus, the pool was also well used by residents of neighboring Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, Wolfe noted.
“This is a terrible decision, and we’re going to fight it,” she said.
The Parks Department said that the controversial decision was also a result of attendance figures, though the agency did not release those numbers.
Whatever the statistics say, the “Double D” pool has a long list of fans, who cherish its intimate feel, large kiddie pool area and relaxed rule enforcement. In 2007, The Brooklyn Paper called it “the hidden gem of the system.”
For now, the closest public pool for Gowanus residents will be in Red Hook — worlds away, particularly given its geographic isolation and notoriously challenging transportation network. That pool is often so crowded that security guards keep kids outside until enough bathers exit.
There is also a public pool in Sunset Park.
Public pools will open for the season on June 29.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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