The Coolest Pool

As the August heat settles over the city, more and more cash-poor young creative professionals have been visiting the Olympic-sized public pool in Red Hook, walking the long desolate industrial blocks from the F train or using a friend’s car to change into their string bikinis. At the door, a long list of prohibited items includes cellphones and iPods—meaning pool-goers actually have to (gasp) socialize with their fellow New Yorkers.

These hipsters tend to congregate in the southwest corner of the pool courtyard, isolating themselves from the splashing local families. They read trashy magazines and Atlas Shrugged. They take a dip—some even swimming a few laps. They have found their summertime Mecca.

Kit Giordano, 26, who works at development at Miramax Films, was there on a recent warm Saturday wearing a navy blue bikini top from J. Crew and light-blue board shorts, looking through one script, another at her feet. Next to her rested a bottle of SPF 30 sunblock, a Nalgene beverage container that read “Lefties Do It Right” and a Princeton classmate, Erin Culbertson, now a law student, who was paging through Entertainment Weekly. “We’re thinking about doing some handstands,” Ms. Culbertson said.

Further along rested Amy Donaldson, a 37-year-old graphic designer generously slathered in SPF 45 who had shlepped from the Upper West Side to meet some friends. “We were just talking about the elasticity of our bathing suits,” she said. Ms. Donaldson praised the comparatively “mellow” atmosphere of the Red Hook retreat. “There are a greater variety of people at this pool, as opposed to Lasker Pool, where there are more people from Harlem,” she said.

Claudie Barrett, a 36-year-old bartender from Windsor Terrace was waxing a bit nostalgic for the teeming picnic baskets permitted at her childhood public pool, in Pennsylvania; today she had only a VitaminWater to sustain her. In keeping with the ascetic theme, Ms. Barrett was reading Tobin Blake’s meditation guide, The Power of Stillness. Her date seemed to have already absorbed the book’s lessons; he lay beside her with a copy of the latest New York magazine inches from his head—fast asleep.


Aug. 13, 2007

At the opposite extreme of the energy spectrum were a proud duo of lap swimmers: Shirley Politzer, 30, and her roommate’s girlfriend, Malika Worrall, 23, who come every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. sharp to secure a lane. “It gets really crowded,” said Ms. Politzer, who was wearing a cleavage-enhancing red bikini. “I have a hot J-Lo bathing suit, but I couldn’t wear it today,” she said.


Perhaps the most devoted pool shark was Robbie Renfrow, 29, who formerly worked in film and video postproduction. “I quit my job so I could have a more enjoyable summer,” he said. “I come here about four times a week, maybe five. I came here the first time like a month ago and was surprised that there weren’t any diving boards. But maybe that’s just New York. You know, safety?”

Julee Resendez, 36, was prone, stomach-down, on a white blanket with pink roses, wearing huge oval sunglasses, bright red fingernails and a black sparkly bikini and reading The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem. Underneath her arm was concealed a verboten cellphone. “I’m very clever,” she said. Ms. Resendez, originally from Seattle, now lives in Bed-Stuy. “The hood,” she said. What does she do for a living?

“She’s a drunk,” said her friend, a television producer who’d made the drive from Boerum Hill.

“I’m a sommelier,” Ms. Resendez said, glaring at her chum. “I hate her.”

One also could sense mild friction between Charlene Choi, a 29-year-old writer from DUMBO reading Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, and Emily Fischer, a 27-year-old architect from Carroll Gardens engrossed in Glamour (“I just finished a Thomas Pynchon novel, so I had to dumb it down! It was this or Harry Potter!”).

“Emily didn’t want to go camping in Montauk,” complained Ms. Choi. “We were going to go on a picnic and go on a hike, and she said no. This was our concession.”

Finally, here was a member of the younger generation: 11-year-old Red Hook local Kevin Hernandez, who comes to the pool almost every day. He carefully explained his activities. “Fighting, dunking people, doing laps.” How many laps?

“I did one,” Kevin said. A pause. “I do bad things to people.”

Like what?

“Giving them wedgies,” he said, and giggled.

The Coolest Pool