Overcome barriers to bring public pool to Pelham

The pool at the New York Athletic Club on Shore Road.

“Do you belong to the PCC or the AC?” is a question that inevitably got asked in elementary school as the year was winding down and summer plans were coming into fruition. “Neither” was not ever much of an answer for anyone since I went to Siwanoy, a school where it is a near-prerequisite to belong to a private country club. Though I did not see it at the time, there is a severe divide between the summertime activities of those who belong to a private pool club and those who do not.

This issue stems from Pelham’s lack of diverse public recreation. Due to the nature of the town’s geography, we do not have abundant hiking trails, nor do we have much of a waterfront. We have parks with playgrounds, basketball courts and soccer fields, but that is about the extent of the options available for public use. For children whose parents cannot afford – or do not desire to join – a private club, summer can feel incredibly isolating. For those reasons, the Town of Pelham should seriously consider building a town pool.

Such a project is not out of the realm of possibility. Consider a Westchester village comparable to the town of Pelham: Briarcliff Manor. It is a wealthy place – it even has a higher median household income than the Town of Pelham according to the US Census Bureau – and it has its own village pool, open to all residents with a permit. Eastchester even has its own town-operated country club called Lake Isle. For those who are sports-minded: Eastchester is Pelham’s rival. Do not let them beat us on this.

Space in a two-square-mile town, though, is not easy to find, which begs the question on where to put such a pool. The most recent (albeit rejected) proposal was on Franklin Field, which supposedly would only take up 12.5% of field space. While I do not think the pool would be intrusive, a proposal would only realistically be approved if it did not interfere with green space already being used for recreation such as youth soccer. So, my search began for another space to use. My first thought was for the town to acquire an existing property – like the giant OLPH parking lot that is rarely used – with eminent domain. But such spaces could be difficult to get a hold of.

Trestle Field, the field on Pelhamdale perpendicular to I-95 and train tracks, should be considered. Of course, parking would be the first issue, however the field is large enough that parking could be created. And, the field has previously been used by the town frequently for baseball and soccer, so it is not like it has not been utilized for recreation before. The only major problem is noise complaints by residents. However, since the field is right next to I-95, I doubt that the noise from the pool would overpower the noise of thousands of cars driving by at all hours. Furthermore, the noise would only be a problem during one season of the year.

Two other viable locations – and perhaps the best ones available as they are already owned by the town and schools – could be at the Glover complex, specifically in the back of the parking lot next to Friendship Field – and the new Hutchinson School (a pool should have been put into the plans for the school anyway), which still has enough space for a pool to be installed. The assumption that Pelham does not have the space for a pool is simply incorrect.

The other major problem with implementing a town pool besides space is money; Evidently, no one wants to pay higher taxes to subsidize a recreational space that they may seldom use. However, taxes would presumably not need to be raised substantially as the pool only needs enough money to break even, and funds would be raised through season and daily passes and concession stands, as well as profits from external activities such as swim lessons, water polo, and competitive swimming.

Pelham Middle School was originally going to have a pool, but the town residents shot the proposal down due to cost. We as a community must not be shortsighted and make decisions like this as they ignore the long-term, meaningful changes a pool would provide. These decisions ignore the benefits to groups like Pelham Recreation, whose summer camps would not have to go to Saxon Woods Pool in Mamaroneck, and teens, who would be given more summer job opportunities within their community.

It is appalling that with a US Olympic Medalist swimmer, a division-winning swim team, and many other notable swimmers in the collegiate level, Pelham does not even have its own public pool. And though it is becoming a more inclusive, diversified community by the day, in order for that transformation to be tangible, kids should feel as though their summer is just as fun as anyone else’s: that begins with equitable access to recreational opportunities.