With New York City in the throes of its first heatwave of 2020, and another poised to follow right behind it, city officials had good news for families looking for ways to beat the heat: some of the city's public pools will be opening tomorrow.
"We didn't want this to be the first year in the history of our pools not being open," said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver in his first press conference since March 12.
In order for the opening to happen, Silver said the city had to train 225 lifeguards and develop social distancing rules, like requiring face masks to enter the facilities. The masks must be worn in locker rooms, bathrooms and on the pool deck, but not in the water. Other social distancing and hygiene rules apply as well, such as having the equipment being washed at least twice a day and having lifeguards try and keep groups apart from one another while in the water.
Silver addressed other new policies that will be in place as well. Capacity at each pool will be limited to 30 percent less than normal (meaning a pool that normally allows 180 will be capped at 125), and a new wristband system will be implemented in order to cut down on lines and wait times. And individual groups must be limited to 10 or fewer, Silver announced.
"If the lines are a little bit too crowded, each pool manager will have the option of giving someone a bracelet, and they can come back at a specific time," Silver said.
Additionally, an ambassador position was added to ensure that locker room visits are quick. There won't be any temperature checks at the gates either — with officials telling residents if you're not feeling well, stay home.
The first round of reopening includes eight pools on Friday, and the rest of the pools will be open to the public on Aug. 1.
The pools that will reopen Friday are Mullaly Park in the Bronx; Sunset and Kosciuszko in Brooklyn; Wagner in Manhattan; Liberty and Fisher in Queens; and Tottenville and Lyons on Staten Island.
The other seven pools will reopen the following week: Crotona Park and Haffen Park in the Bronx; Betsy Head in Brooklyn; Hamilton Fish Park, Marcus Garvey and Jackie Robinson Park in Manhattan; and Astoria Park in Queens.
"Having public pools up and running in the heart of summer is going to be really great, even with those limits," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. "Chlorine is our friend in fighting corornavirus, but we still got to limit the lines and limited locker rooms."
Pool hours will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, according to the parks department. That hour in the afternoon will be used to clean parts of the facilities.
The city said it had budgeted $5.3 million to hire 716 positions, including $3.6 million for pool staff.