Feeling like a fish out of water? The Parks Department’s outdoor pools are open from late June to Labor Day, and its indoor pools are available (with a minimal fee) for lap swimming year-round. The city’s beaches are as diverse as its neighborhoods, and charming in every season. For those who really want to get back to nature, Swim the Apple hosts swims in both the Hudson and East rivers.
ASSER LEVY: Asser Levy Place and East 23rd Street, 212-447-2020. Asser Levy, perched close to FDR Drive, seems on good days like your own private East Side oasis, and the hypnotic hum of nearby traffic helps drown out children’s voices on more crowded occasions. An indoor pool operates all year, apart from the summer season, with a $75 membership fee; free for children under 18; $10 for seniors over 55. (These membership fees will admit you to all city pools.)
ASTORIA: 19th Street and 23rd Drive, Queens, 718-626-8620. One of 11 public pools opened by Robert Moses along with the WPA in 1936, this art deco masterpiece bordered by the Triborough Bridge offers stunning views of Manhattan and the East River. Should New York win its bid for the 2012 Olympics (shudder), this is where the swimmers will compete.
CARMINE RECREATION CENTER: Clarkson Street and Seventh Avenue South, 212-242-5228. An upbeat neighborhood escape in the West Village, Carmine boasts a large-scale mural painted by Keith Haring and is one of the few outdoor pools in Manhattan that allow diving. A three-lane indoor pool is also available year-round. (For membership fees, see Asser Levy above.)
HAMILTON FISH: 128 Pitt Street, 212-387-7687. The WPA-era Olympic-size outdoor pool on the Lower East Side sits within a large, red-brick public square that has shady trees and benches, but not a lot of room for sunbathers. Local kids dominate the water.
METROPOLITAN: 261 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-599-5707. A Williamsburg institution since 1922, this indoor pool underwent its latest major renovation in 1997. The large, steel-framed skylight creates an airy environment, and the locker rooms are a good place to catch up on neighborhood lore. (For membership fees, see Asser Levy above.)
RIVERBANK STATE PARK: 679 Riverside Drive, 212-694-3600, parks.ny.gov. This park, inspired by Japanese urban rooftop designs, offers an outdoor pool plus an Olympic-size indoor pool. Built atop a wastewater treatment plant, Riverbank rests 69 feet above the Hudson River, and provides striking views of the George Washington Bridge and the Jersey Palisades ($2).
BRIGHTON BEACH, BROOKLYN: Q to Brighton Beach Signs in Cyrillic are prominent in this Russian community just east of Coney Island. Several boardwalk cafés (with outdoor seating in summer) such as Volna cater to both émigrés and tourists.
CONEY ISLAND, BROOKLYN: W to Stillwell Avenue This dreamland of hot dogs, amusement rides, and baseball hosts the popular Mermaid Parade on the Saturday after the summer solstice and the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day. Year-round draws include the New York Aquarium and Totonno Pizzeria.
LONG BEACH, LONG ISLAND: LIRR to Long Beach A tasteful oceanfront community less than an hour’s train ride from Manhattan, Long Beach is a pleasant alternative to the city beaches ($5).
ORCHARD BEACH, BRONX: 6 to Pelham Bay Park, BX12 bus to Orchard Beach Part of Pelham Bay Park, this crescent-shaped, mile-long beach on Long Island Sound attracts sunbathers from the Bronx and beyond.
ROCKAWAY BEACH, QUEENS: A to Rockaway Park/ Beach 116th Street Rockapulco stretches along more than seven miles of shore, from Neponsit in the west to Far Rockaway in the east, with subway stops at all points in between.
SANDY HOOK, NEW JERSEY: NY Waterway ferry to Sandy Hook, summers only, nywaterway.com. At the northernmost tip of the Jersey Shore are the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and Fort Hancock. Only one restaurant, the Sea Gulls’ Nest, serves this quiet, family-filled beach.
For more information on pools and beaches, visit the City of New York Parks and Recreation website at nycgovparks.org.
SWIM THE APPLE: Taking advantage of recent improvements in water quality, Swim the Apple supervises day and night group swims from a number of points around the island, including Pier 63 on West 23rd Street and a small beach at East 23rd Street.