$200K To Study Pool Proposal
By Howard Schwach
Last year around this time, with great fanfare, Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton announced that Congress had allocated more that $4 million for an indoor pool at Riis Park, a pool that would be Olympic in stature and would draw regional swimming teams from all over the area.
Within days, however, officials at Gateway National Park told The Wave that the money would be used instead for "park infrastructure," and that only a small amount of the money would be used to "study" the possibility of a pool at the park.
Schumer and Clinton, joined by Congressman Anthony Weiner, insisted that the funding bill would be written in such a way that the money would be used for the pool.
Now, a year later, Weiner has announced that $200 thousand has been allocated to "assess the viability of a swimming facility in Rockaway."
Retired firefighter Kevin Callaghan, who has been one of the Rockaway activists fighting for a pool since Schumer was our Representative, said that a pool would increase the quality of life on the peninsula.
Callaghan is a member of a committee that is pushing for the pool.
"A pool would be a good place for our kids to learn how to swim and for local swimming teams to compete," Callaghan says. "The Parks Department had to enlist lifeguards from Europe this year because there weren’t enough local kids who could do the job. A pool would insure that local kids could become lifeguards."
"I went to college on a swimming scholarship, and I just don’t see the same opportunity for local kids today," Callaghan added.
Weiner also believes that the pool would enhance the quality of life on the peninsula, but he underscored the need for a preliminary study to see if people will use it if it is built.
"This is a battle that has been going on for a long time and it may soon be over," Weiner says. "In an effort to end the debate over whether the pool is really needed, a professional marketing study is now underway to determine if the pool would be used sufficiently to justify the expense. I am confident that this study will bear out what many have been saying, that if you build it, they will come."
The survey, being done by Dornbusch Associates of San Francisco, will last until November. The survey will ascertain the demand, will determine the construction costs, will identify funding streams and will assess the "economic impact of alternative sites."
For its part, the National Park Service is unsure of the viability of the pool plan.
"There are questions about year-round demand and construction costs," a spokesperson for the NPS said. "We have to answer those questions before we go ahead with any project involving a pool."
"If a pool appears to be viable and the money is there, we will go ahead with it," he added. "We have said all along that we are in favor of a pool. Right now, there is no money to support the plan."
"They are concerned about having a white elephant on their hands, and so are we," Weiner said. "I believe the survey will show otherwise."