Council Approves Bill to Search for Future Public Pool Sites, Free Swimming Lessons

Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. Image Credit: John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

On September 14, 2023, the City Council passed Int. 962-A, requiring a city appointed agency to start the planning and construction of swimming pools in areas without current pool access, with the eventual requirement to provide free swimming lessons to underserved communities. The bill was sponsored by Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers.

The bill requires a city-appointed agency, working alongside the Department of Parks and Recreation, to conduct swimming pool assessments of properties owned and controlled by the City. These assessments will include existing and non-existing pools, where the agency will describe the steps necessary to construct and enhance the facility with a plan to construct a pool within five fiscal years of submission. The assessments are due to the mayor and speaker of the council no later than October 1, 2025. The agency is required to prioritize Environmental Justice Areas, as defined in section 3-1001, as low income or minority communities located in the city. An update of conditions, progress, funding, and educational programs is due by October 1, 2027, and every two years thereafter.

The bill also requires the Parks Department to provide free swimming lessons at least three days per week for children, adults, and people with disabilities as residents of the city with valid recreation center memberships. Additionally, the designated agency must work alongside the Department of Education to locate potential school facilities for public summer use and submit that report to the mayor and speaker by October 1, 2024.

The amendments take effect 90 days after becoming law. Submitted during the committee report on April 26, 2023, Council Member Brooks-Powers developed a map of the city, highlighting the lack of public pool access throughout the 32 districts. As of April 24, 2023, there are 18 districts across NYC with no public pool access. For limited access, where a pool was not within a 15-minute walk from one’s home, she found less than 20 percent of the city population has an accessible public pool. The Council noted that public pools and swimming lessons strengthen communities, encourage fitness for families, and enhance public safety.

Council Member Brooks-Powers stated, “Every New Yorker should have the opportunity to swim – not only to enjoy the City’s waters, but to protect themselves from danger, pools provide community members a supervised environment for students to develop swimming skills. But far too many neighborhoods are deprived of pools nearby. That is why I am proud to sponsor Introduction 962, which will help improve access to pool infrastructure citywide. I will continue to fight for equitable access to the pools and programming that empower members of our community to swim safely.” Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue stated, “Water safety and swim instruction can save lives. Accidental drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children under the age of 14, with a disproportionate impact on black and brown youth, which is why we are very proud to offer a wide variety of swim instruction classes.” (Hearing testimony 42623). Whether the community will use the public pools to cool off in the summer months or learn lifesaving water safety skills, New Yorkers will see community improvements across the districts within the next five to ten years.

By: Jillian Colombo (Jill is a New York Law Student, Class of 2025)

CC: Stated Meeting, Int. 0962-2023, Version A (September 14, 2023)


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