Flushing Aquatic Center Pool Finally Reopens After Three Years — But Not for Long
With two other pools due to close, it may soon be the only Parks-operated indoor swimming pool open in Queens.
Dozens of swimmers descended into a pool at the Flushing Meadows Corona Aquatic Center on Monday morning as Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sue Donoughue blew a whistle to signal its long-anticipated — albeit temporary — reopening.
The happy day came 163 weeks after the Olympics-caliber center first shut its doors in January 2020 for what was supposed to be “at least six weeks” to install emergency netting for its crumbling roof.
That roof, capped with a distinctive wave design, is still being assessed for repairs the Parks Department estimates will begin in 2025, according to Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects Therese Braddick.
“There’s some moisture that’s coming in from the top and the bottom, and so we’re working on figuring out exactly what’s possible,” Braddick told THE CITY.
The planned roof reconstruction will require the pool to close again, little more than 15 years after it first opened as part of NYC’s bid (which proved unsuccessful) to host the 2012 Olympics. Braddick said that Parks is still working on determining an exact timeline for the repair work and that future closures will be kept to a “minimum time period.”
The netting remains in place in the meantime.
The last short-term closure ended up lasting for more than three years, as Parks also struggled to repair the unique movable floor at the $67 million facility, which experienced 350,000 visits annually prior to the pandemic.
The temporary reopening of the Flushing pool comes just as Queens’ only other Parks Department-operated indoor pool, at Roy Wilkins Recreation Center in St. Albans, is slated to close for repairs, according to Parks Deputy Commissioner for Urban Park Service and Public Programs Margaret Nelson, who told THE CITY that the agency has not yet determined a date for that closure. The outdoor Astoria Pool will also close this summer to replace its 87-year-old filtration system, said Braddick.
City Councilmember Sandra Ung, a Democrat representing the adjacent area of Flushing, said members of her community have been waiting a long time for the neighborhood pool’s reopening.
“When I took office last year, this was probably my number one phone call — about when this aquatic center will be open,” Ung said.
‘Is The Pool Open Yet?’
After the long wait, swimmers who had relied on the aquatic center were eager to take a dip again.
Mary Dozier, a 74-year-old who donned a rosette-covered swim cap, came in from Nassau County with her husband and a childhood friend for the occasion. She learned to swim at the aquatic center about five years ago, she told THE CITY, because it’s something she “always wanted to do” despite her ongoing fear of drowning.
Until the pool closed in 2020, Dozier had been visiting the aquatic center five days a week to tend to her arthritis with the help of 45-minute water aerobic classes.
“Even our doctors now — every time we go, they don’t say ‘How are you?’” Dozier said. “They go: ‘Is the pool open yet?’ And I was getting ready to get them to write letters.”
Parks-run outdoor pools lack the same kind of extensive programming, while pools run by private operators were often cost-prohibitive or inaccessible for people with disabilities, she said.
“It being closed for three years, a lot of us — including myself — started having physical problems. In the last year, I had to start using a cane, and now I’m using a walker. I wasn’t doing that before, but the arthritis had gotten worse,” said Dozier, who stopped swimming when the Aquatic Center closed.
“We do this for about two or three months, and I’ll probably not have the cane — I’ll probably not need the walker — because I’ll be getting the exercise.”
As an instructor sporting an “AQUATIC SPECIALIST” T-shirt prepared to lead a water aerobics class, 55-year-old Barbara Young carefully directed herself toward the poolside bleachers using a walker. Theresa Wynn, another 55-year-old who became friends with Young after meeting each other at the Aquatic Center, soon took Young’s arms and the pair walked together to the edge of the pool.
“I love to swim,” said Young, who has a neurological condition that limits her mobility.
“Same with me but I can’t swim,” Wynn chimed in. Behind them, a swimmer dove underwater and performed a handstand.
“But she puts her face in the water now,” Young said, now beaming with an eager smile.
“And I’m holding her hand because she needs me,” Wynn said.