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Updated 2:08 p.m.
The public pool at Fishtown Recreation Center is closed for the second summer in a row, and neighbors are pissed.
Mostly because they’re not even sure why.
Last year, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced that the pool at 1202 Montgomery Ave. — officially called Lederer Pool — wouldn’t open that season due to necessary construction. Affectionately dubbed the Swimmo by residents, the popular swim spot had started leaking into the basement of the neighboring Fishtown Library in 2015.
But 2017 came and went without any construction starting, and the pool remains closed. Neighbors say they haven’t heard a peep out of Parks & Rec.
Fishtown residents have unleashed their complaints in various community Facebook groups. As might be expected in the absence of official information, these posts lamenting Swimmo’s disappearance include lots of hearsay and few confirmed facts.
“Without really open dialogue with the neighbors about what’s going on,” said Oren Eisenberg, who lives two blocks from the pool, “there’s just going to be more rumors that breed and more discontent among taxpayers.”
A $2 million project?
Eisenberg has heard a handful of whispered explanations from his neighbors — that the pool’s construction is on hold, that there isn’t enough money to fix it, that it was sold to build condos.
Parks & Rec confirmed to Billy Penn that the city “absolutely did not” sell the pool to new developers. So Fishtown residents can take comfort in the fact that a 3,000-unit condominium will not rise in the pool’s place.
After first stating that Parks & Rec was “trying to figure out the issues right now” as to why the Swimmo couldn’t open this summer, spokesperson Alain Joinville clarified it’s because the department doesn’t yet have the money the begin renovations.
“We cannot operate the pool while we wait to attain the funding because when the pool is operational, it causes severe water damage to Fishtown Library and the nearby athletic fields,” Joinville told Billy Penn.
Mary Ann Tempone is the president of the neighborhood’s Recreation Advisory Council, and she’s lived in Fishtown for 15 years. Even she’s not exactly sure what’s going on — but she’s heard rumblings.
Tempone said a Parks & Rec official told her the cost of repairing the Swimmo is projected to be upward of about $2 million.
“My understanding,” Tempone said, “is that they have nowhere near that [amount of] money to allocate.”
It’s possible the funds will end up coming from the city’s soda tax revenue. Earlier this month, City Council approved 64 parks, rec centers, playgrounds and libraries that will receive money from the tax through Philly’s Rebuild program. Fishtown is on the list.
But that doesn’t do any good for summer 2018.
‘A big disappointment’
Regardless of the reason for the closure, Fishtown residents are bummed to be without their public pool.
In the pool’s absence, Eisenberg said he’s visited the Jersey shore more often to find a place to swim. But he misses the chance to unite with his community.
“The pools are a really important hub for everyone in the summer to have a public space,” he said.
Anna Francis has visited Swimmo every summer for the past 20 years — that’s when she first met her husband, who grew up in the neighborhood. The past few years, she’s delighted in relaxing at the pool after work.
“It’s a neighborhood thing,” Francis said. “To know it’s not there is a big disappointment.”
Even more disappointing to her is the lack of information on the pool’s sustained closure.
“I’ve been asking around, and nobody knows nothing,” she said. “They never give you an exact answer. I posted in the Fishtown Facebook page, and people say so many different things.”
Eisenberg feels out of the loop, too. He suggested Parks & Rec could start holding hearings in the neighborhood to update residents, or at least post some kind of notice on the Swimmo’s fence.
“I can say that as a neighbor,” he said, “I don’t feel like I understand what’s happening down the street from me.”