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New York City aims to address lack of public swimming pools in communities of color

NYC addressing lack of public access to pools for communities of color
NYC addressing lack of public access to pools for communities of color 02:08

NEW YORK -- New York City says it's addressing an issue impacting communities of color:  a lack of public access to swimming pools.

There are 16 City Council districts that don't have public pools, and the hope is for more kids to learn how to swim ahead of summer.

Some consider the city a public pool desert.

Nicole Quintana, from Long Island City, doesn't know how to swim.

"It's a safety issue because it's dangerous not to know a skill, well, to have a skill like that. I'm actually going to be a parent myself so I would love for my kid to know how to swim as well," she said.

Quintana is not alone.

According to city data, 1 in 4 city kids don't know how to swim. The numbers are lower for Black children and Asian children; 1 in 3 don't have swimming skills.

"It's also going to study where new public pools can be put in where they don't exist. And on top of that, we're also going to be providing free swimming programs in the pools, lifeguard training programs, so that we really address this in a comprehensive way," City Councilmember Shekar Krishnan said.

Neighbors looking to come to the popular Astoria Pool will have to look for alternatives this summer; it will be under construction as the city says it's making necessary repairs. The public showers next door, however, will be open during construction days when it's really hot.

"A lot of kids are there during the summer, so I don't know what they're going to do," Astoria resident Kara Caroccio said.

"Lack of swimming skills tends to be generational, so if we can get everybody in the family in the water, then we are breaking that cycle," said Shawn Slevin, executive director and founder of Swim Strong Foundation.

Slevin has hope now that this will open up opportunities for a potential new generation of lifeguards.

Michelle Gonzalez, from East Elmhurst, started her kids on swimming lessons when they were 6 months old.

"I do have to drive all the way out there just so they could get swimming classes ... That would be amazing to have something near me," she said.

The priority is to open more indoor pools so they can operate year-round; under the city parks department, there are only six. 

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