Seawright to City: Reopen Indoor Pools

Lawmaker makes plea to help struggling community organizations, like Asphalt Green, by opening their doors again.

24 Aug 2020 | 09:06

As New York State and City continue in the slow-going process of reopening its economies, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright is pushing for the mayor to create a plan to open indoor pools, including the ailing Asphalt Green in her district.

“The state has approved general plans to open indoor swimming pools. But here in the city, we have no local guidance, and pools remain closed,” she said. “Last week, I called upon the City to implement an action plan. It’s long overdue.”

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released state guidelines to allow gyms to reopen at 33 percent capacity starting as soon as Monday, Aug. 24. Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that in the city gyms could reopen by Sept. 2, but must follow state protocols, which require facilities be inspected either before or within two weeks of reopening. Gyms will have to enforce health requirements, including mandatory mask wearing, proper air ventilation, sign-in forms, screening at the door (like temperature checks) and social distancing.

While the city has kept its infection rate below 1 percent for the past two weeks, the mayor has no plan at the moment to allow group fitness classes or to reopen indoor pools.

It’s disappointing result for Asphalt Green — a community nonprofit and athletic facility — which has had to furlough or lay off more than 600 staff members during the pandemic shutdown, according to Seawright. The nonprofit has not received any revenue since closing its doors in March.

Asphalt Green, Seawright argues, is equipped to follow the state and city’s social distancing protocols. Both campuses — located on the Upper East Side and Battery Park — have indoor pools with ceiling heights at 40 and 24 feet, according to the lawmakers, adding that the large areas have excellent ventilation.

“I am confident that Asphalt Green can run safe, clean facilities where they can teach kids the life-saving skill of swimming and allow their members to return to healthy and enjoyable exercise routines,” said Seawright, who serves the Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island. “The reopening of indoor pools is crucial to countless other organizations throughout the five boroughs. The same is true for many outdoor public pools, including the John Jay swimming pool.”

In the face of the threat of a second wave, Seawright said the city can still reopen indoor pools while remaining vigilant.

“We must aggressively — and safely — innovate to ensure that we are exploiting every possible opportunity as we push towards normalcy,” she said. “The city’s prohibition is inconsistent with every other jurisdiction in New York State, all of which have successfully opened pools with safe practices in place. We must do better.”