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Queens residents keep cool at Fort Totten pool during heat wave

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Unforgiving heat gripped Queens late last week as Bayside residents sweltered and searched for ways to keep cool.

Temperatures of 104 degrees Friday broke the 1957 heat record of 101 degrees but stopped short of the all-time record of 106 degrees hit in 1936.

As the mercury crept up the thermometer, the heat brought more than 1,000 people last Thursday and Friday to Fort Totten Park’s city swimming pool, causing the park to divide its two daily swimming sessions into six to accommodate the crowds.

“So far so good, everybody follows the rules,” pool supervisor Louis Rodriguez said Friday. “This year in general we see more people because this is a quiet place.”

Rodriguez said patrons from as far as Astoria come to use the pool, which was saved from closing after the city restored funding to it this year.

The main pool holds 221 people, while the kiddie pool has a capacity of 20.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Friday the city pool hours would be extended from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and that pools would be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

“The city’s pools are great places to cool off and beat the heat,” said Bloomberg. “During this heat wave, New Yorkers should take advantage of the free places around the city that offer relief from the heat: pools, spray showers, beaches and cooling centers.”

Cooling centers are public areas that provide air conditioning and include libraries and city Department for the Aging senior centers. Residents can find the nearest cooling center by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov.

The excessive heat caused 24,000 of 748,000 Con Edison Queens customers to lose power between Thursday and Saturday, although power was restored to most areas by late Saturday night, spokesman Chris Olert said.

Con Edison also distributed dry ice from Saturday to Sunday and reduced voltage in parts of central and western Queens in an effort to keep residents cool.

But many people found the trek outdoors more burdensome than staying at home. The Bayside library held noticeably fewer people Friday, when temperatures soared to a heat index of 108 degrees.

Still, the few library patrons were glad to find a cool place out of the sun.

“It’s very good, especially since it’s a very hot day,” said Ji Young Yang, 39, who drove from Douglaston to work with her daughter on homework in the library.

But swimmers at Fort Totten Park were not deterred by the 10-minute outdoor walk to the pool from the parking lot and bus stop.

“I just walked here,” Melissa Deluca, 18, of Bayside, said. “It’s too hot to do anything else.”

Reach reporter Evelyn Cheng by phone at 718-260-4524.

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