New York Today: New York Today: The Evolution of City Pools

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Crowds outside the city’s first municipal bath, on Rivington Street. Credit New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Good morning on this cloudy-to-clear Wednesday.

August is winding down, but there’s one thing that’ll help us hold on to the summer a tad longer.

Swimming.

Most of the city’s public pools are open until Sunday, Sept. 10.

You can look for a location nearest you here. But before jumping in, here’s a little trivia on our city’s pools:

Before there were pools, we had public baths.

The city opened its first municipal bath in 1901 at 326 Rivington Street — a bathhouse that became so coveted that during a fatal heat wave a few years later, a small riot broke out in the long line there. The site, later renamed the Baruch baths, is no longer in use, though the building remains.

But several of the city’s former bathhouses are still up and running — in the form of swimming pools. The pools presently at the Asser Levy, East 54th Street, Tony Dapolito and Gertrude Ederle recreation centers “all began life as bathhouses,” said Liam Kavanagh, the first deputy parks commissioner.

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The city also saw unusual “floating baths” — rectangular structures perched atop pontoons on the Hudson or East Rivers — as early as the 1800s, but they disappeared in the 1920s for sanitation reasons.

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A floating bath at 96th Street. Credit New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

In the 1930s and 1940s, under Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, Robert Moses created a new set of outdoor pools that, with their heating and filtration systems, were considered at the forefront of engineering.

Portable mini-pools, which Mr. Kavanagh described as “large metal tubs that were towed from place to place,” became part of our city’s landscape in the 1960s and 1970s, intended to provide relief to neighborhoods that would not otherwise have access to facilities to beat the summer heat. But as more permanent pools were built over time, the more than 70 movable mini-pools have dwindled to a mere 18 today (and they’re now fixed in place).

One pool that remains bobbing in New York Harbor in 2017 — combining traits of the many pools that came before her — is Floating Pool Lady. She’s a barge-turned-swimming-oasis floating off the tip of Barretto Point Park in the Bronx, holding a hefty 100,000 gallons of water each summer, and weighing a whopping 4,040,960 pounds when full.

Ready to dive in? The city’s free public pools are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mini-pools will close on Labor Day.)

Here’s what else is happening:

Weather

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Things are looking up, and by day’s end it should be nice enough to go for a dip.

This cloudy morning should make way for sunshine by the afternoon, with a light breeze and the high nearing 80.

The rest of the week (and holiday weekend) are still looking promising — fingers crossed.

In the News

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stirs the pot in an effort to unseat six Republican members of Congress in New York State. [New York Times]

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“He doesn’t get under my skin at all,” Representative Christopher Collins said of Gov. Cuomo, “but I know I get under his.” Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

The family of a young boy who wears dresses sued the education department, alleging the boy’s school was hostile towards him. [New York Times]

State lawmakers who live hundreds of miles from New York City are in control of the subway’s future, even if they rarely ride it. [New York Times]

A Queens man was charged with trying to enter Syria to join ISIS. [New York Times]

Advocates are against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to turn five apartment buildings into homeless shelters, for fear that bad landlords would profit from negligent behavior. [Gothamist]

A man got his leg stuck in a sinkhole in the street in Bed-Stuy. [DNAinfo]

Today’s Metropolitan Diary: “The Connection Holds

For a global look at what’s happening, see Your Morning Briefing.

Coming Up Today

Dames of Thrones, a comedy show about women taking back Westeros, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea. 7 p.m. [$7]

Learn to double dutch from the jump-rope masters of Double Dutch Empire, by the Pier 2 picnic tables in Brooklyn Bridge Park. 7 p.m. [Free]

On tap for outdoor movie night: sunset screenings of Moonlight and Aladdin on Staten Island, School of Rock and Jump In in Brooklyn, The Jungle Book in Manhattan, and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life in the Bronx. [Free]

Looking ahead: Take a jewelry-making workshop, where you’ll learn to create sterling silver rings, on Thursday at the Prospect Heights Brainery in Brooklyn.

Yankees host Indians, 1:05 p.m. (YES). Mets at Reds, 7:10 p.m. (SNY).

Alternate-side parking remains in effect until Friday.

For more events, see The New York Times’s Arts & Entertainment guide.

And Finally…

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The Aquazanies tumbling from a high-dive in 1951. Credit Sam Falk/The New York Times

Have you heard of the Aquazanies? Think of them as the Harlem Globetrotters of city pools.

The performance troupe combined swimming and diving with comedy, theater and other fanfare — like music, props and zebra-striped costumes — to offer New Yorkers poolside entertainment beginning in the 1940s. They got their start at the Astoria Pool in Queens, garnering so much enthusiasm from citydwellers that their stunts evolved into a larger, annual spectacle called the “Aquashow,” in Flushing Meadows.

It grew into “an extravaganza of splashing aquabelles and aquabeaus, graceful skaters, comics and music,” The New York Times wrote in 1954. That year, in addition to the Aquazanies, the show boasted numbers with a long-tailed monkey named Herman and the Aquadorables, a group of water ballerinas.

Members of the Aquazanies would later become lifeguards, famous swimmers, professional divers, and even a special agent with the F.B.I.

New York Today is a morning roundup that is published weekdays at 6 a.m. If you don’t get it in your inbox already, you can sign up to receive it by email here.

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Source: New York Times

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