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Locals rally to save Double-D pool from feds’ closure plan

Tiny ralliers: From left, 5-year-olds Jimmy White and Luke West and 3-year-old Ellington White don’t want to see the beloved Douglass-Degraw Pool ripped up and temporarily closed as part of the proposed cleanup of the Gowanus Canal.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Dozens of fans of the beloved Double-D pool rallied at the oasis near the banks of the Gowanus Canal to tell the feds that they don’t want their watering hole turned into a raw sewage depository.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency may force the city to excavate some of the Thomas Greene Playground and the adjoining pool so a gigantic holding tank could be installed to store water during storms as part of the so-called Superfund cleanup of the filthy waterway, ensuring less raw sewage flows into Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory.

But on Saturday, neighbors wary that the pool — which has served the community for more than 40 years — will be closed for a lengthy period of time, said such a move would be a major blow to people who rely on it to keep cool during hot summer days.

“They may never put our pool back and it will be out of commission for years. It’s a shame to take it out of the community,” said Linda Blyer, a Cobble Hill resident and a member of Friends of Douglass-Greene Park, the advocacy group that organized the rally.

The group says that it’s in favor of getting the canal cleaned up. Yet, in April, it started an online petition against the placement of the tank that would sacrifice the pool. The petition now has close to 1,000 signatures.

Federal officials consider the ground underneath the pool to be a prime location because the tank must be built on city-owned land and close to the sewer pipe that spews out the majority of wastewater into the canal. The pool is a block away from the canal.

The protestors said it is crucial that the community not be left without a pool, and demanded that if the federal government decides to place the tank there, then a replacement must be provided during the pool’s closure, which the feds said would likely last two to three years.

“We need our community provided for before, after, and during the cleanup,” said group member and Gowanus resident Sabine Aronowsky, who often brings her two-year-old daughter to the pool.

The demonstrators said that the replacement pool must remain in the neighborhood and offer free breakfast and lunch to kids when school is out, just as the Double-D pool does.

The pool’s future is also threatened because it sits directly above a plot of contaminated land where the former Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant functioned from 1879 to 1929. The state may require energy giant National Grid to clean up the polluted land, which will also include excavation.

The Environmental Protection Agency will release its finalized Superfund cleanup plan this summer.

“We want to make sure that whatever happens, we have a pool to serve these communities,” said Brooklyn Heights district leader Jo Anne Simon at the rally. Simon is also a founding member of the Friends of Douglass-Greene Park.

It’s not the first time residents have rallied behind the Double D. Back in June 2010, the city planned to close the pool due to budget cuts, but rallies by residents and politicians, including Borough President Markowitz, kept it open.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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