At the height of the depression, in the summer of 1936, Mayor La Guardia, acting for the City of New York. and allied with the Works Progress Administration, came up with a plan to give some much needed relief to the city’s inhabitants. For that summer, each week was celebrated by the opening of a swimming pool in a low-income neighborhood. There were eleven pools in all, created and assembled by the WPA.
The now historic ‘summer of pools’ began on June 24, with standing room only, as crowds pressed in to see the opening of Hamilton Fish Pool, which included a show by the Jones Beach Water Troupe. Every single pool unveiling that followed the first was equally a big to-do with extras, like carnivals and diving shows and competitions de rigueur.
- Parades, water carnivals, performance by swimming clowns and celebrities marked the opening of the pools. Tens of thousands came to witness the events.
- Accommodating 49,000 people across the city, the pools were technologically extraordinary. Each was larger than several Olympic-sized pools.
- For each pool, there was under-water lighting, floodlighting and lighting for night swimming. They were said to be feats of engineering, hygiene and construction.
“On June 24, 1936, thousands of Lower East Siders turned out for a spectacle the likes of which New York had never seen.”