Pooling Its Money: How NYC Floats Its Boat in a Needy Neighborhood

Don Benesch is what you might call a heavy lifting expert. He supervises tug boat jobs -- helping the captain move construction equipment, machinery, or other mondo cargo.

But this -- was different.

"It's the first swimming pool of my career," said Benesch, aboard a tug boat named "Kathleen."

The day's mission: tugging an 80-foot swimming pool from Hempstead Harbor to Barretto Point Park in The Bronx.

The pool is known as The Floating Pool Lady, which has helped solve a serious problem: some of the city's poorest residents live far away from anywhere healthy to swim.

"We operate it just like just like one of our other pools," said Nancy Barthold, Assistant Parks Commissioner. "And it goes to a neighborhood that doesn't have one. So it's a great mission."

The Floating Pool Lady was first donated to New York by a nonprofit three years ago. It docked the first year in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

This is the third year in the Bronx. It costs the parks departnment about $300,000 to operate the floating facility, well below the millions it would take to build a permanent pool from scratch.

For tug boat captain Scott Murray, the net result made for a worthwhile afternoon, chugging across the Long Island Sound, underneath the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges, into the East River, and finally do the South Bronx. All so some youngsters will be able to swim when the mercury soars.

"A lot of people complain the city's not doing this, not doing that," said Captain Murray. "Here the city is doing something nice for people. It's nice to be a part of that."

Once the floating pool opens on June 29, it will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Free swimming classes are available from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.

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