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Fort Totten pool saved from closure

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The Fort Totten pool will remain an oasis from the summer’s sweltering heat after City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) announced last week that the historic Bayside site’s swimming hole had been rescued from the chopping block.

The pool, which underwent upgrades such as resealing and landscaping during the past year, was originally slated as one of four city swimming holes to be shuttered by the city Parks Department as part of its 2011 fiscal year budget.

But funding for the pool has been restored and the site will remain open through the end of the summer.

“The Fort Totten pool is the only open-air pool in northeast Queens,” Halloran said. “It provides an opportunity for the community to take a respite. Every time I’ve passed the Fort Totten pool on a summer day, it’s packed with kids and families enjoying the sun and the water.”

The pool was scheduled to close July 1. The Parks Department had said the pool’s attendance figures were low.

The site had originally been built as part of the fort, which is along the Cross Island Parkway in Bay Terrace.

It is primarily used by northeast Queens swimmers, but draws residents from two Council districts, five state Assembly districts and two state Senate districts.

Halloran said the pool operates at an estimated cost of $125,000 per year.

“Look at this beautiful oasis and you can see why we are so protective of Fort Totten,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. This is a major victory for young families with children, a victory for senior citizens and a victory for all of northeast Queens. This is proof that when you have elected officials, concerned citizens and civic leaders working together, you can take on City Hall.”

One swimmer said she used the pool for medical reasons and was relieved it will not shut down.

“I can swim — it’s one of the few exercises I have left,” said Eileen Eliason, a cancer survivor from Bayside who has gone through two bone marrow transplants. “It’s a safe environment. Little things like this make difficult times so much easier.”

The pool provides free lunches for youths and swimming lessons.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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