Members of the Senior Marlins Swim Team practice at St. Mary's Recreation Center. Photo by: Cheyenne R. Ubiera

Troubling Waters: Swim team fights for pool hours

Indoor swimming pools are a luxury this time of year, especially if you live in the Bronx. The borough doesn’t have many places to practice the aquatic sport during colder months. St. Mary’s Recreation Center is home to the borough’s only public indoor pool and its restrictive pool hours are having a ripple effect on local swimmers.

Despite years of fighting, St. Mary’s Senior Marlins Swim Team is still facing the worst pool hours in the city — and it’s only gotten worse. The team, which consists of 25 members between the ages of 50 to 80, has used multiple efforts to contact NYC Parks and Bronx Borough President, Rubén Diaz Jr., about their strict pool schedule.

“We’ve sent letters and have done so many interviews,” said Cheryl Holt, 71, the swim team’s secretary. “We get no response or a ‘we’ll get back to you later’ that never happens.”

A spokesperson from NYC Parks stated that they are actively working to make full use of the pools that the department has available and that St. Mary’s continues “to be an important part of this discussion”.

The spokesperson also stated that NYC Parks has responded to all letters received to date. 

The slim schedule is even more of a problem lately because there are more swimmers coming here from other boroughs. Recent closures of NYC Parks pools in Manhattan and Queens have forced some swimmers to make the trek to St. Mary’s and the Senior Marlins are fed up.

“We’re still having issues with the pool hours,” said Joetta Brown, 78, the president of the Senior Marlins. “Now we have less practice space.” 

Seniors can only swim three days a week at the Olympic-sized swimming pool. Photo by: Cheyenne R. Ubiera

The pool where the Marlins practice is only open to seniors from 10 to 12 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and its shared with any senior that is a member of the center — forcing the Marlins to practice amongst other swimmers doing aerobics classes and swimming recreationally. With the Citywide Senior Games coming in the summer, that’s not enough time for the Marlins who are aiming to before four-time champions. 

The staff at St. Mary’s has been fully supportive of the Marlins’ fight for more hours, said Brown. As well as Bronx’s Community Board 1. The support has been extremely helpful for the team, as their efforts have not been in vain.

The fight for more hours isn’t just about the Marlins needing more practice time, it’s also a health issue. The Bronx is currently ranked as the unhealthiest county in New York state and many who frequent St. Mary’s argue that longer pool hours could combat the problem. 

Lorraine Gray, 85, is a former member of the Senior Marlins who has been coming to the rec center for over 20 years. 

“There needs to be more hours,” said Gray. “There are times when people come here to exercise and can’t because the pool is closed.” 

This isn’t just an issue limited to the seniors. St. Mary’s pool schedule also puts an age limit at certain swim times. For example, people under the age of 55 can’t swim in the morning as it’s exclusive only to seniors.

“If I were 35 and wanted to get some exercise before work, I can’t,” said Holt. “If the pool wasn’t so age-restricted more people would get more use out of it.”

Still, the Senior Marlins are fighters and are carving practice time whenever they can. For now, they’re setting their sights on winning at the Senior Games but once that’s over with, they’ll continue their crusade for more hours. 

“We’ve been thinking about marching on City Hall with our swimsuits on,” said Brown. “I think it’s time we actually do it.”

The Borough President has not responded at this time.
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