2003-02-22 / Front Page

Locals: Pool Numbers Do Not Compute

Locals: Pool Numbers Do Not Compute

The survey that was completed by a San Francisco (California) firm detailing the feasibility of a swimming pool for Riis Park that was released last week by Congressman Anthony Weiner is flawed, according to a number of local residents who are advocates for the pool.

The survey report, just released last week, indicates that a number of local facilities, including Long Beach, Freeport, Jones Beach and the Nassau County Aquatic Center were contacted to find out how many people use those facilities, charges for use and whether the facilities run at a profit or at a deficit.

The report summary points out that a year-round indoor pool with diving facilities would cost about $34 million to build and would have a net operating loss of about $2.4 million each year.

A number of Rockaway residents, however, do not believe the report is accurate.

"I just don't believe the numbers that were released in the survey report," says Rockaway activist Kevin Callaghan. "I called Long Beach and Freeport myself and got different numbers than those who did the report got from the same people."

For example, Callaghan points out, the Long Beach facility includes a skating rink.

"They told me that the pool pays for itself but that the skating rink loses money," Callaghan says. "The survey links the swimming pool with the skating rink and then says that the pool operates at a loss."

"It's frustrating," the ex-firefighter adds. "If we need subsidies, then we should get them, but all indications are that the pool can pay for itself."

Bob Rooney agrees.

"The reports of the pool's demise are greatly exaggerated," Rooney says. "The numbers in the report are flawed."

Rooney says that he has reached out to a number of groups who said that they would be interested in using the pool and would be willing to pay for that use. Included in those groups are the Army Reserve, the NYPD (for SCUBA training), FDNY (for its rescue swimmers) and the EMS.

Rooney says that he and others who are interested in a pool have contacted the architect who designed the pool for C.W. Post College.

"He has shown an interest in the project," Rooney says.

John Jefferies is the director of Freeport's recreation center, which includes three outdoor pools, one indoor pool, a gym, a skating rink and a restaurant/health club.

He spoke to the California people who did the survey, but he is not sure that they understood what he was telling them.

"I was resistant to giving them my numbers," Jefferies told The Wave. "What I have here in Freeport and what you want to do in Rockaway are like apples and oranges. They grouped together all of the facilities that I have here and that is very different than simply building and running one pool."

"They take those figures and then say, 'Freeport is not doing well with their pool, why do you expect to do better?'"

"I explained to the people in San Francisco that what we have here could not be done today and that it made no sense to compare us to what was planned for Rockaway," Jefferies said. "They did not seem to understand."

"Just a sheer look at the numbers that we have here does not mirror the reality of what it would mean in Riis Park," he added. "We are making money on our pool."

Bob Carroll runs the Long Beach facility, which also includes a pool and an ice skating rink.

Carroll does not remember being contacted for the survey, although his facility is prominently mentioned in the report.

"Many of the people who use the Long Beach pool are from Rockaway," Carroll says. "You really need a pool of your own, but I truly do not remember anybody from San Francisco calling me about your pool."

Carroll told The Wave that, despite the fact that the report says that his pool runs at a deficit, it does make money although the skating rink does not.

The report details three options for a pool that would be sited at Riis Park or at another site in Gateway National Park. The first option calls for an outdoor, seasonal pool, the second for an indoor pool without diving facilities and the third, an indoor pool with diving facilities.

According to the report, local residents prefer the third option, although "the surveys suggest that it would be lacking in ancillary features such as a fitness and steam/sauna facilities. Conversations with aquatic recreation providers such as the YMCA suggest that the lack of a warm-water, zero-entry pool in the facility would limit the community appeal of the aquatic center. Aquatic recreation providers also noted that diving facilities generally do not attract enough users to compensate for its extra cost to the facility."

Locals, however, say that the facility's use as a training center for high school, college and club swimming teams depends on an Olympic-size pool and a diving facility.

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