Going Off the Grid at New York City’s Pools
August 15, 2012

Going Off the Grid at New York City’s Pools

We were getting a little concerned, having not heard from two friends for over two weeks. We knew they were traveling, but who knew they were going to places so remote that they didn’t have Internet connections.  When we learned this, we were envious.  The idea of disconnecting from the Internet was intoxicating and we immediately started talking about how great such a holiday would be. Sooner rather than later, we wanted to find a way to unplug like that. 

Little did we know, it would take only a few days and we wouldn’t even need to leave the city.

The Pools Rule

Whenever you visit a city pool, you are apt to encounter a would-be guest grumbling at a guard because he or she is being turned away for potential rule violations. The rules are many and strict, and it’s imperative to know them all before you try to enter a city pool. Among them:

  • You must wear a bathing suit; no shorts allowed
  • You must bring and use a padlock for a locker; small luggage locks are not allowed
  • Flotation devices are not allowed
  • Beach chairs, strollers, bags, and blankets are not permitted on the pool deck
  • No smoking
  • No newspapers (books and magazines are allowed)

And best of all: No electronic equipment, including radios, cameras, cell phones, laptops, and other devices. We hadn’t made the connection before—or really appreciated the forced disconnect—but with that, you are effectively off the grid, right in the heart of New York City.

Focus on Family and Friends

City pools have been in the press a lot recently. Unfortunately, most of the coverage has been bad, owing to some fights and arrests at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, which reopened this summer after undergoing major renovations.

Enough has been said about that one pool to last us a few summers, however, so let’s widen our view to include the city’s 18 other outdoor pools (there are also 12 indoor pools), appreciate them for the urban oases that they are—and pay homage to that rule banning electronic equipment!

On a recent visit to Lasker Pool in Central Park in Manhattan, it was wonderful to power down devices and focus on the play at hand, and that afternoon, about 150 visitors were doing just that. No furtive glances at the Blackberry, no quick texts being tapped out, no watching movies on a tiny iPhone screen—the list goes on.

The pool is an enormous circle, three feet deep all around, and Riley and Halina relished jumping around the entire perimeter first, then swimming a full diameter from all different points on the circumference. They totally led the way, deciding where we were going to go next, and by what movement we were going to get there: hopping on one foot or two, riding piggyback, plunging totally under water then shooting back up a few feet down. Nothing was off-limits, as long as we didn’t splash other guests or get in their way.

With everyone likewise deeply involved in their own games with their own groups, it felt as though we were in our own little world. City pools and beaches close after Labor Day, so between now and then, we plan to go off the grid as often as possible and we’d love to know which ones to hit. What do you recommend?  

Photos are courtesy of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.




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