By Douglas Feiden / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A giant swimming pool in a Washington Heights high school has been closed for more than 10 years — in a neighborhood with fewer public places for youngsters to swim than any other part of Manhattan.
Since at least the late 1990s, the four-lane, 75-feet-long indoor pool at George Washington High School has been used as a massive storage room for old desks and chairs, broken computers and other past-their-prime classroom furniture, insiders say.
That’s a fair cry from the days when famous alumni — like baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew, singer Harry Belafonte, ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — frolicked in the half-Olympic-sized pool.
But now City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the Democrat who represents the area, is fighting to reopen the white-tiled treasure at 549 Audubon Ave., which he says will cost about $5 to $7 million to renovate.
“A swimming pool is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, and in this neighborhood, the need is desperate,” Rodriguez told the Daily News.
An open pool combats crime, by keeping kids off the streets, and obesity, by promoting exercise, he said. It can also provide summer job training for lifeguards in recessionary times when youth unemployment is rampant.
“From river to river, and from 146th Street all the way up to 228th Street in Marble Hill, there are almost no indoor public pools available for our community,” Rodriguez added.
For residents of the Heights and Inwood, that often means a trip south to the indoor pool at Riverbank State Park at W. 145th St. There is also a popular, Olympic-size pool at W. 173rd St. in Highbridge Park, but it’s an outdoor facility and only operates in the summer.
Check out this amazing photo essay on the Trident Swim Foundation Swimmer Scholar Program in George Washington High School.