City empties public pools on day of record-breaking heat

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NEW YORK — Tuesday was officially the hottest September 8th in New York City recorded history, but if plunging into an outdoor city pool was anybody's idea for cooling off, the city shot down that idea hard.

All of the city's 56 public outdoor pools shut down for the season on Tuesday,  just in time for the record heat.  It prompted calls from residents for the city to do for pools what it's now decided to do for public beaches — keep them open a little longer.

The heat index hovered around the 100 degree mark Tuesday with the official temperature at 94, breaking a record first set in 1919.  It certainly provided incentive for people to jump into the city's pools.  In fact, many residents, like Annie Grullon and Camille Esinal showed up at city pools only to find them drained dry.

"We're so sad," said Grullon, feigning crocodile tears for emphasis. The fact is, though, they had come with their two year-old cousin to swim at their local outdoor pool, Lasker Pool in Central Park.  All it had left in it when they showed up around 1:45 Tuesday afternoon was a thin layer of moisture at the pool bottom after it had been thoroughly drained in the morning.

"We looked online, and it said it was open," said Grullon, as an explanation of why they'd come.

Indeed, as of early Thursday evening, the website of the city's parks department said that outdoor pools are open.  Reading further on the website showed that pools were open through Monday, not Tuesday. The fact stands, though, that the website should have been updated much sooner regarding city pools.

However, the website did point out, accurately, that the city's nine public beaches are being kept open for an extra week, through September 13th.

It may help keep beachgoers cool, but as some would-be pool users pointed out, the advantage of having a pool remain open, as opposed to a beach, is that pools are right in a neighborhood.

It's far more easily accessible for most nearby residents.

However, the city pointed out in a written statement that fewer people use pools than go to beaches. It makes sense, considering that there are six pools for every city beach.

Also, operating each of those far fewer beaches costs less than operating pools.

Keeping a beach open costs city taxpayers about $678,000 per week, compared to $945,000 per week to keep a city public pool open.

Still, some residents pointed out that extending the pool season just one or two more days until schools open would cost a fraction of that amount.

"That makes more sense," said Grullon, as she pointed to the toddler who'd accompanied her and her teenage cousin to the newly-drained Lasker Pool in Central Park.  "We have a little boy who wants to go to the pool," she said, "but now we [just] have a long walk home."