McCarren Park is a public park in Brooklyn, New York City. It is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and is bordered by Nassau Avenue, Bayard Street, Lorimer Street and North 12th Street. It is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Opened in 1906 and originally named Greenpoint Park, the park was renamed McCarren Park in 1909 after State Senator Patrick H. McCarren (1849-1909), who began work as a cooper at Williamsburg sugar refineries and eventually became the Democratic boss of Brooklyn. The park is a popular destination for recreational softball, volleyball, soccer, handball, and other games. It is also used for sunbathing and dog-walking. In late 2004, the park's track was resurfaced and has been a popular destination for running enthusiasts.
Events on the baseball fields of McCarren Park include members of the punk and indie communities gathering to participate in league-controlled kickball tournaments. For several years, the baseball fields have hosted tournament play for the Hasidim; weekend afternoons provide T-ball and softball games for organized area youth groups; Latino families and friends often utilize the fields to play soccer and volleyball into the late hours of the night. Since June 2003, McCarren Park has hosted SummerScreen in McCarren Park, and The Renegade Craft Fair, a DIY event. The fair attracts artists and creative types, featuring a wide range of merchandise such as reconstructed clothing, comic books, tote bags and other handmade goods.
McCarren Pool was the eighth and largest of the eleven giant pools that were built by the Works Progress Administration to provide safe swimming facilities for all New York City residents. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia attended the dedication on July 31, 1936. With an original capacity for 6800 swimmers, the pool served as the summertime social hub for Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The building's vast scale and dramatic arches, designed by Aymar Embury II, typify the generous and heroic spirit of New Deal architecture.
The pool was closed in 1984. It quickly became blighted, and covered in graffiti. The bathhouse buildings were broken into and extensively vandalized, until they were sealed up sometime around 1989. The pool was also used in a chase seen in the 1984 movie Vigilante.
The reuse and reconstruction of the pool remained a contentious community issue for many years, until the community came to a consensus plan in 2001. The community sought to reconstruct the facility to encompass a skate park, an indoor recreation/performance center, and a smaller pool that could be converted to a seasonal ice rink. The plan was estimated to cost $26 million and had a good chance of receiving public funding, but the budgetary constraints of the City in post-9/11 shelved the plan and the pool remained closed for the next few years.
In 2005, Clear Channel Entertainment gave $250,000 to the City Parks Foundation, a private non-profit entity, to do basic stabilization and safety improvements to the pool structure. The first public event in the pool, a dance performance called Agora, choreographed by Noemie Lafrance, was held by Sens Production that summer. In fall of the same year, the City Parks Department sought an entity to manage events on site for the summer of 2006. In the summer of 2006, a number of free and cheap public events were held at the pool, including the free SummerScreen film series, Jelly NYC's pool party series and the Williamsburg Film Festival. That summer also saw Clear Channel Entertainment's concert-promotion arm, Live Nation, put on a series of six concerts that were ticketed for $45-$52 (including ticket service fees). By early 2007, the pool was again being used for concerts, film screenings and other events.
The park was substantially renovated in the 21st century, including its swimming pool and the restoration of a bath house and a recreation center:
In 2001 McCarren Park's ballfield was renovated at a cost of $560,000 and the handball and boccie courts were updated at a cost of $601,000. A $1.7 million project in 2006 renovated the park's well used running track and soccer field, and new lighting was added in 2008 at a cost of $1.1 million
Meanwhile, as part of the 2005 rezoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg the City appropriated $1 million in capital budget funds for restoration of the pool as a performance space. Also, $300,000 was allocated by the New York City Council in 2006 to support the construction of a seasonal rink.
During early 2007, many in the community expressed a preference that the pool be returned to its historic use as an active recreational facility, with a smaller space dedicated to cultural and concert events. In April 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that reconstruction of the pool would move forward, funded as part of the City's PlaNYC long-term planning initiative. Total budget was announced as $50 million, with construction slated to start by 2009. Before reconstruction began, the site continued to be used as a large concert venue. In 2008, Wolf Eyes, Times New Viking and Vivian Girls opened for Sonic Youth on the 30th of August.
The plan brought to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in September 2008 did call for a performance space to be included, but only as a portion of extensive refurbishment with a new pool, an ice-skating rink, a cafe, a community center, and an exhibition center. The Commission approved the renovation plan on September 9, 2008. Final design renderings were completed in February 2009, and renovation work began in December 2009.
As renovation work progressed, the bathhouse buildings were finally unsealed. The LTV Squad urban exploration team again went inside and documented the building interiors, revealing a virtual time-capsule of 1980s graffiti which lay untouched over the previous two decades. The graffiti was completely removed during the renovation.
The pool reopened on June 28, 2012. The rush of large crowds and long lineups during the first few days resulted in some skirmishes between bathers and lifeguards, injuries to two police officers, litter and graffiti on nearby streets, and unease among local citizens.
In 2013, work was begun to remove "Hipster Lake", a puddle of water that was annoying users of the park's fields.
- "WPA-Era Pools". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
- "McCarren Park Highlights : NYC Parks". www.nycgovparks.org. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "McCarren park History". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 2014-09-26.
- "McCarren Park & Pool". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Archived from the original on 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
- Huhn, Mary (August 29, 2008). "McCarren Pool Plans Hold Water". New York Post. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- "Hipsters Out of the Pool: McCarren Redo Gets Green Light". Curbed. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- "Hipsters Back In The Pool: New McCarren Park Pool Images!". Curbed. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Lisa W. Foderaro (2012-06-28). "Empty About 3 Decades, Pool From the Depression Era Reopens to Cool Off Brooklyn". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-30.
- Lisa W. Foderaro (2012-07-02). "A Revived Pool Draws Tensions to the Surface". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
- McCarren Park at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website
- McCarren Park Event Guide and Directions
- Gotham Gazette: Endangered Historic Sites in NYC
- Gothamist Blog: McCarren Park Pool Controversy
- FreeWilliamsburg article on the recent history of the pool
- New York Times Article on PlanNYC / Reconstruction
- "McCarren Park Pool Reconstruction Finalized" — Photographs and review of 2002 plans to revitalize the pool
- IMDB page for Pool Party, 2010 documentary