Pool saved at Fort Totten

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Marco? Polo!

Queens residents trying to beat the heat last week splished and splashed in the waters of the public pool at Fort Totten Park, a cool relief considering that just a few days earlier it seemed as though they would be left high and dry.

Earlier in the month, the city Parks Department announced that in order to trim $1.4 million from its budget, four pools across the city would not open this season, which would be shortened by two weeks.

In a down-to-the-wire deal, the City Council came to the department’s rescue.

“I’m proud to say we’ve restored funding for Parks and Recreation, especially for the youth over the summer,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). “Keeping the Fort Totten Park pool open is about maintaining the neighborhood’s quality of life.”

“It’s always in the 11th hour they find they have the money. They did the same with the Fire Department,” said Baysider Leonard Grasso, who brought his 7-year old grandson to the pool’s official opening last Thursday for some aquatic fun.

The intermittent sound of the pool’s diving board springing up and down cut through the background of children squealing with delight and wet feet slapping against the concrete as patrons enjoyed the cool water or laid out on the grass.

Nicole Hanlon brought her two sons from Whitestone to wade around in the kiddie pool.

“We’re enjoying the cool water,” she said as Liam, 2, and Logan, 3, played nearby.

Hanlon said she was not aware the pool just narrowly made it through the budget, but she was fortunate to have a place to take her children.

“We’re lucky we have something to do on a hot day to keep us cool,” she said.

The pool will be open through Sept. 5, six days a week from Thursday to Tuesday. It operates between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., though it is closed for cleaning between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Throughout the summer, the Parks Department will offer three free learn-to-swim sessions for which registration is required. Food is not allowed at the pool, though a free lunch program is available for children on weekdays.

Unauthorized vehicles are not allowed to enter Fort Totten Park, but patrons can park their vehicles in the nearby lot in Little Bay Park and walk to the pool. On a hot, sunny day, the cool relief of the pool’s water will be a welcome reward after the trek.

As Grasso looked on at his grandson, Sebastian Kimotek, he said that, had the pool not been open, they probably would have been playing in the sprinklers at Buzz O’Rourke Playground.

“He has fun in the sprinklers, too, but this is a lot nicer,” he said.

Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 11:09 am, October 12, 2011
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