In New York City, having outdoor space is an amenity not enjoyed by many. Sure, some apartments may have tiny balconies. Some co-ops may share a front or inner courtyard. Condo developments -- especially new ones -- can boast shared roof decks. Even fewer New Yorkers have water access. Private pools can be found here and there, mostly in the deep outer boroughs, and some newer developments boast indoor pools.
But most New Yorkers turn to public spaces for their outdoor summer needs. Luckily, those public spaces can be truly great.
“There's something peaceful about living near water, no matter if it's a pool or a river or the ocean, so living across the street from a pool right next to the East River is pretty much a perfect package,” said Chelsea Morse, a resident of Astoria in Queens. “I get a killer view of the Triborough Bridge [Editor’s note: the Triborough was renamed the Robert F, Kennedy Bridge] and the trees of Astoria Park when I do the backstroke. It's like meditation. It is the most perfectly serene way to start the day.”
From parks to public pools (which open today for the season) to beaches, here are the neighborhoods in New York City that has the best summer amenities.
Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill
When Brooklyn Bridge Park first broke ground in 2008, some residents along the waterfront in that part of Brooklyn were concerned about traffic, access, and a host of other issues. The park is nearly completed and stretches from DUMBO through Downtown Brooklyn, past Brooklyn Heights, and into Cobble Hill. The amenities are numerous -- from open parkland with water views, green space, ball fields, and even a summer pop-up pool.
Residents north of Astoria Boulevard live in close proximity of Astoria Park, which boasts some of the best waterfront views in all of New York City. And inside the park is the renowned Astoria Park Pool, an Olympic-sized swimming pool built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936 (a total of 11 similar pools opened that summer in New York City).
Morse, who’s been in the neighborhood for eight years, says that living just a short walk from the pool makes life easier and better, especially because she has a toddler.
“We wait all spring for the pool to open so I can take my toddler there!” she says. “The pool is only 4-feet at its deepest, and it's got a big family section that slopes from a few inches to a few feet deep so that little ones can splash around safely. Having the pool so close to our house means that we can drop in for a quick afternoon dip on the way home from daycare or the grocery store. It's incredibly convenient.”
The McCarren Park Pool is another WPA-era swimming pool in the city, While it fell into disrepair and began hosting concerts and parties in the early 2000 instead of swimmers, it was fully restored to its glory in 2012 and is now a neighborhood jewel. The redevelopment and rezoning of Williamsburg and now Greenpoint have coincided with the pool’s renaissance, making this a very popular spot. Be prepared for lines and crowds.
The pool is located in another popular summer amenity: McCarren Park, home to ball fields, a track for running, plenty of space for reading and sunbathing, and a weekly farmers’ market.
Upper West Side
The Upper West Side is wedged between two of the best public parks in New York City, Central Park and Riverside Park. No matter where you live in the large neighborhood, which extends from roughly 59th Street to 110th Street, you can enter a park and find green space, playgrounds and sprinklers/ splash pads for kids and even a large public pool. The Lasker Pool, in Central Park between 106th and 108th streets, boasts both an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a wading pool for kids.
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side may conjure images of bars, restaurants, and busy streets more than idyllic parks but the small neighborhood is also home to the John Lindsay East River Park, with views of the Williamsburg Bridge and plenty of room to enjoy the outdoors. There’s even an amphitheater that hosts concerts. Also nearby is the public Hamilton Fish Pool, one of the largest in the city.
This tiny neighborhood in South Brooklyn is a peninsula that juts into the East River and boasts water views around nearly the entire perimeter. Check out the Valentino Park and Pier where locals fish off the pier and others lounge in the grass. Also nearby is the Red Hook Pool, a large WPA-era pool that gets crowded but thanks to its remote condition can be truly calm at times.
Obviously, Rockaway makes the list. The beach, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is a treasure. The boardwalk is new, the eateries are plentiful, and the surf vibe is irresistible. The neighborhood is narrow, but long, with each section boasting its own unique character.
Georgia Kral is a staff writer at The Cooperator.