Hearings held on nine Robert Moses projects

Depression-era pools and play centers considered for individual designation. In the 1930s, under the guidance of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the City built dozens of parks and swimming pools using federal Works Progress Administration funds. In the summer of 1936 alone, the City opened eleven large pool-oriented play centers.

On January 31, 2007, Landmarks heard public testimony on the proposed designation of nine of these WPA play centers, including the Bronx Crotona Play Center, McCarren Play Center in Brooklyn and three Manhattan locations. Landmarks previously designated Queens Astoria Play Center and the Orchard Beach Bathhouse in the Bronx, the remaining two recreation centers opened by LaGuardia and Moses in the summer of 1936. 3 CityLand 95 (July 15, 2006).

The City built the play centers with low-cost building materials primarily of brick and cast-concrete using the Art Moderne style. Documents from the period show that Robert Moses, an ardent swimming enthusiast, personally involved himself in the play centers’ designs. The largest pools measure a massive 165 by 330 feet, and each location includes wading pools and diving boards. In addition to swimming pools, the play centers incorporate large bathhouses, designed to double as gymnasiums in the winter months, as well as playgrounds, landscaped grounds and, in one instance, a band shell and dance floor. In addition to the pool and recreation areas, Landmarks considered four bathhouses for individual designation.

All but one of the pools built during the LaGuardia administration are still in use. The notable exception is the now-dry pool in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, currently used for musical performances and other cultural events.

At the hearing, no speakers testified in opposition to designation. Landmarks has not set a date for a vote on the nine remaining pools.

LPC: Crotona Play Center and Bathhouse, Bronx (LP-2232, LP-2233); Betsy Head Play Center, Brooklyn (LP-2240); McCarren Play Center, Brooklyn (LP- 2244); Sol Goldman Recreation Center and Pool, Brooklyn (LP-2241); Sunset Play Center and Bathhouse, Brooklyn (LP-2242, LP-2243); High Bridge Play Center, Manhattan (LP-2237); Thomas Jefferson Play Center, Manhattan (LP- 2236); Jackie Robinson Play Center and Bathhouse, Manhattan (LP-2238, LP- 2239); Tompkinsville Play Center and Bathhouse, Staten Island (LP-2234, LP- 2235) (Jan. 30, 2007).

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