Albany urged to keep South End pool
By JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer
First published in print: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 in the Times Union
ALBANY -- As city lawmakers look for ways to mitigate the blow of next year's proposed budget, they were urged Monday night to do everything they can to avoid closing Public Bath No. 2, a little-known South End swimming pool.
Shuttering the public bath is just part of deep cuts to the Recreation Department's budget amid Mayor Jerry Jennings' larger effort to close a $23 million budget gap. That plan also includes a roughly 7.5 percent tax increase for homeowners and the layoff of about 34 city employees.
City officials say the Fourth Avenue facility is used by only an average of between 20 and 25 people a day, not enough to justify the nearly $225,000 it costs to run annually or the significant repairs the building will need in coming years.
But Hudson Avenue resident Douglas Cohn urged the Common Council to consider doubling the pool's $1 entry fee before closing the facility outright.
Cohn, who said he began swimming there three times a week after the Washington YMCA closed this spring, said the pool in many ways mirrors the social melting pot that many downtown residences cherished in the Y.
"I think it's a valuable resource," said Cohn, a city resident since the late 1990s. "It cuts across all sorts of economic levels."
But Councilman Frank Commisso Jr., who represents the uptown 15th Ward, asked Cohn whether it would be worth raising city taxes a percentage point just to keep the pool open.
Representatives of the Albany Free School on Elm Street had previously petitioned the council not to close the pool, which they said is a regular destination for school outings.
Councilwoman Leah Golby called the century-old bath house building "a treasure" and said the city ought to do everything it can to keep it open.
Golby, who represents the 10th Ward in Pine Hills, noted that Albany doesn't charge anything for use of its two other seasonal pools, in Lincoln Park and on New Scotland Avenue across from the Academy of Holy Names.
While Golby stopped short of saying the city should charge for the use of those facilities, she noted there has been a larger discussion about raising the city's recreational fees to increase revenue.
"I don't want the bath house to close," said Golby, adding that she taught herself to swim properly there. "One of the things that has been discussed is raising the fees to the bath house and in general raising fees for recreation. And no one has come out and actually stated the fact that we don't charge for the pools in the summer."
Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton has recommended closing three of his city's four pools to close a $6 million budget gap.
The council has until Nov. 30 to approve a budget Jennings' proposal automatically goes into effect.
Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at email@example.com