August 1, 1936 was one of the happiest days in history for the kids of Greenpoint. It was the day when the McCarren Park pool was opened. For years local kids had to endure the summer heat without a pool, but local political legend Pete McGuinness had for years been fighting to change that. The idea for the pool came from the “Czar of Greenpoint, ” McGuinness,sixteen years earlier when he was Greenpoint’s Alderman. McGuinness was a master pork barrel politician and at the time he made the proposal to build the pool the President of the Board of Alderman was LaGuardia. Although McGuinness and the Mayor were from different parties they were able to work together on projects like the pool and the two enjoyed a warm personal friendship.
The Mayor of New York, The Little Flower, Fiorello LaGuardia, was present to open the pool. After a short speech he turned on illuminated lights at the bottom of the pool to mark the opening. He noted that when the lights were turned on it was clear that ” The Garden Spot of the World had truly flowered.”
The pool like many other great public works in Brooklyn was done by the Works Progress Administration- one of the Alphabet Soup Agencies created by Franklin Roosevelt to fight the Depression and to put people back to work. The pool was one of the largest ever built in the United States and measured 330 feet by 165 feet. It cost only a million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to build. McCarren Pool was the eighth of eleven giant pools built by the Works Progress Administration to open during the summer of 1936. With an original capacity for 6800 swimmers, the pool served as the summertime social hub for Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The building’s vast scale and dramatic arches, designed by Aymar Embury II, typify the generous and heroic spirit of New Deal architecture.
The ceremony to open the pool were preceded by a parade, a MCGuinness trademark, in which he and the mayor were at the head of the march. The crowd was so big that it could not fit into the pool area so special loud speakers were set up so that the thousands who lined the streets around the pool could hear the speeches.
One of the speakers was the Park Commissioner, the legendary power broker, RObert Moses, who hailed Pete as “The Prince of Greenpoint.”
The biggest ovation of the day was reserved for the area’s local hero, McGuinness who said that he was the happiest man within the confines of the pool. It was Pete who popularized the Greenpoint nickname” Garden Spot of the Universe” and Pete said in his remarks,” When I look over this pool, I can truly say that this is the garden spot of the world and no other.”
The pool closed in 1984 and sat for twenty years abandoned and a symbol of the area’s decline. In 2005, Clear Channel Entertainment and gave $250,000 to the City Parks Foundation, a private non-profit entity, to do basic stabilization and safety improvements to the pool structure. The pool reopened on June 28th, 2012