Will Albany’s last bath be swept away in ‘financial tsunami’?
November 9, 2010 at 9:45 am by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist
|Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (front), who opposes closing the bath, tours the facility Monday with several of his colleagues. City Historian Anthony Opalka (Yankees jacket) also toured the 105-year-old facility for the first time.
Residents rallied Monday night in Albany’s South End to save Public Bath No. 2, the last of three built at the turn of the 20th century to provide a warm water oasis for the city’s working poor, who often lived in cramped flats with no way to take hot bath.
Now, the bath is a quarter-million-dollar-a-year swimming pool and one of the few public amenities in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
The city has offered to open the new pool at the Arbor Hill Community Center more hours to accommodate public swimmers during the day — but South End residents say that’s too far away. And shuttering the 105-year-old pool, they say, would only create another vacant building in a neighborhood that can ill-afford another.
After a tour of the pool Monday night, council members’ reactions seemed mixed.
Council members Dominick Calsolaro and Leah Golby said they believed the money could be found to keep the pool open in the short term while a longer-term assessment of its needs is made.
Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who lives in the neighborhood and used to represent the 2nd Ward, urged a cautious approach and said any decision about the fate of the pool needs to be made with full knowledge of the costs and with an eye toward the city’s larger problem — a $23 million budget gap.
“We have a lot of competing priorities,” McLaughlin said. “If we save this, something else goes. And that may be a priority for somebody else.”
Councilman Ron Bailey, a South End native who now represents Arbor Hill and West Hill, said that if the money can be found, he’d rather see it used to restore cuts to the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program for teens rather than save the pool.
Recreation Commissioner John D’Antonio said he doesn’t want to close the facility but would prefer to see the jobs of some of the roughtly 34 city workers headed toward layoffs spared before the pool.
A spokesman for Mayor Jerry Jennings said he is willing to listen to “reasonable” alternatives and said he’s been working with the school district to broaden the public availability of its pools.
“We have received many, many e-mails form people begging that it be saved,” said Jennings’ spokesman, Bob Van Amburgh. “And the mayor is willing to listen to any reasonable recommendation.”
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