There’s nothing more magical than summer in New York City. And just like anywhere else, locals love to beat the heat with lazy days by the pool. Luckily, there are a slew of NYC public pools that are free and open to the public. “After last year’s unprecedented challenges, we are so excited to announce that our outdoor pools and beaches will be opening on time this season,” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver tells StreetEasy. Starting on June 26, 48 public pools will open across the five boroughs for visitors to enjoy. 

But why just commute to one of these sites when you can live in one of the many great neighborhoods with its own public pool? “It’s a bonus to live near a pool,” says Warburg Realty’s Gerard Splendore, citing his own affection for Brooklyn’s Sunset Park Pool. And, he points out, even if you’re not a swimmer yourself, it’s always a nice feature to share with future renters or buyers. To make your summer poolside dreams a reality, we’ve rounded up some of the best NYC pool neighborhoods. Here they are, along with what makes them great, and what you can expect at each spot. 

What Are the Rules at NYC Public Pools? 

First things first. All NYC public pools have pretty strict guidelines on what you can, and can’t, bring and wear. Make sure to bring a combination lock for the lockers, as most items aren’t permitted in the swimming area. It’s best to leave valuables like jewelry and wallets at home. Phones and other electronics, glass bottles, and even newspapers are prohibited. 

Pretty much the only thing you should bring into the swimming area with you is a towel. The pools should all have free SPF 50 on hand, but it’s best to lather up at home beforehand, just in case. If you want a little extra sun protection, throw a white shirt over your bathing suit. (No shirts with colors are allowed.)

Top Large NYC Pools

Jefferson Pool, East Harlem

Originally built in the 1930s as part of New Deal-era public works projects, this East Harlem pool still keeps the community cool nearly a century later. With one Olympic pool and one wading pool, there’s more than enough space to relax in the water for hours on end. This NYC public pool is part of a larger complex that includes playgrounds, a dog run, and BBQ areas. That means you can certainly make a day out of the center’s offerings. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes
  • About East Harlem: A delicious melting pot of Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and Latin American restaurants grace the streets of East Harlem’s vivacious community. Home to El Museo del Barrio and iconic street art, this neighborhood offers up nonstop excitement.  
  • Median Rent: $2,195

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Lasker Pool, South Harlem 

This massive space at the northern end of Central Park is an ice skating rink during the winter months. But come summer, it transforms into an enormous public pool! Check out the Olympic-size pool and kiddie pool for a day of splashing around. “It’s fantastic — refreshing and so important,” says Warburg Realty’s Svetlana Choi, describing the enormous facility. “It’s the ideal of what life can be like in the city.” To top things off, the pool overlooks Central Park’s idyllic Harlem Meer lake.

*Note: During summer 2021, Lasker Pool will be closed due to construction. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About South Harlem: This neighborhood, often referred to as Central Park North, is a bustling area with terrific access to the sprawling park. After a day of pool lounging, Choi recommends exploring Frederick Douglass Boulevard. If you’re hungry, grab some delicious southern fare at Melba’s or fantastic chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth’s. You’ll also see plenty of historic buildings throughout the neighborhood. 
  • Median Rent: $2,230

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Hamilton Fish Park, Lower East Side

Featuring both an Olympic-size pool and a wading pool, this Lower East Side haunt has some impressive history. Built in the summer of 1936, this swimming pool was another New Deal project executed by the Works Progress Administration. That very summer, 11 pools opened up across NYC (many of which are covered in this article!). The park includes a gorgeous Beaux-Arts recreation center, which actually preceded the pool. It was labeled a NYC landmark in the 1980s, and was restored in the ’90s. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About the Lower East Side: Filled with historic tenements, raucous nightlife, and an unparalleled foodie scene, Manhattan’s Lower East Side checks all the boxes. Neighborhood staples like Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters have been serving locals and visitors for over 100 years. And much of the neighborhood is part of the Open Streets program, where pedestrians can enjoy local businesses without the rush of traffic. 
  • Median Rent: $2,995

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Highbridge Park, Washington Heights 

In Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights area, the Highbridge Pool is another of the 11 pools created under FDR’s administration. Famed former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses — one of the city’s most influential urban planners — even attended the grand opening. At the time, admission was 10 cents for kids and 20 cents for adults. Here’s a rare example of reverse inflation: These days, anyone can take advantage of the Olympic pool and wading pool for free.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About Washington Heights: This diverse neighborhood is affordable and down-to-earth. Residents and visitors alike love the area for tree-lined Fort Tryon Park, bustling Broadway, and The Cloisters.
  • Median Rent: $2,100

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McCarren Park Pool, Greenpoint/Williamsburg 

McCarren Park Pool, on the border between Greenpoint and Williamsburg, is a powerhouse for fun in the sun. The swimming area is enormous at 37,571 square feet — nearly three times the size of an Olympic pool! (It’s pictured above.) There are also plenty of lounge chairs and space to hang out horizontally for a few hours. Locals love this NYC public pool for its cleanliness, abundant space, and proximity to the rest of McCarren Park.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About Williamsburg and Greenpoint: These are perhaps two of the trendiest neighborhoods in all of NYC. The adjacent areas of Greenpoint and Williamsburg are home to hip coffee shops and thrift shops galore. But that’s not to say that either neighborhood lacks history. In fact, Peter Pan Donuts has been around for over 60 years. And the Domino Sugar Refinery, now a mixed-use development and park, dates back to the 1800s. 
  • Median Rent: $2,850

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Kosciuszko Pool, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Named after a Polish general, this Olympic-size Bed-Stuy pool is a great Brooklyn spot to enjoy the water. A “Stay Cool” sign outside welcomes visitors, and multicolored bleachers decorate the swimming area. And if you’re looking for a cozier NYC public pool experience, there’s also a mini pool for kids at the Jesse Owens Playground a mile away.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes
  • About Bed-Stuy: Gorgeous brownstones and trees grace the streets of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. Residents are proud of the area’s historic roots, and the neighborhood has an abundance of new storefronts and restaurants constantly popping. Check out L’Antagoniste, an upscale bistro, for classic French fare.  
  • Median Rent: $2,375

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Sunset Park Pool, Sunset Park 

Located in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, this massive pool is a perennially popular summer hangout. Originally created in a neoclassical/Art Deco style in — you guessed it — 1936, the pool got a $5 million makeover in the ‘80s. Sunset Park has stellar views overlooking the Manhattan skyline. And as the name suggests, it becomes downright magical around sunset, with fiery hues illuminating the cityscape to the west.  

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes
  • About Sunset Park: This affordable Brooklyn neighborhood offers up more than just stunning sunsets. Sunset Park has lots of old-school charm. But it also has Industry City, a newer development that’s a hub for hot restaurants and pop-up markets. “It’s really brought a whole new vibrancy to the area,” says Splendore. “It brings a lot of jobs, plus music, art, and food.” 
  • Median Rent: $2,000

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NYC’s Top Midsize Pools

Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, West Village

NYC public pools are not usually known for their groundbreaking artwork. But the West Village’s Tony Dapolito Pool is certainly an exception. In 1987, famed pop artist and activist Keith Haring created a long, horizontal mural that still runs alongside the pool. The pool and attached rec center was renamed in 2004 for Tony Dapolito, an active local resident, community board member, and owner of nearby Vesuvio Bakery. Featuring an intermediate pool and a diving pool, this community space is a longstanding neighborhood staple. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About the West Village: Manhattan’s picturesque West Village feels like a neighborhood straight out of a fairytale. Low-slung buildings, cute boutiques, and an array of cozy cafes make this an irresistible — and pricey —area. 
  • Median Rent: $3,395

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Bushwick Playground Pool, Bushwick 

Bushwick Playground’s pool is an intermediate-sized option for splashing around. The pool area itself is tree-lined for some privacy (and shade). It’s a popular space to relax during the summer months. There’s also a tiny wading pool on the grounds. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About Bushwick: This artsy, industrial Brooklyn neighborhood is filled with converted lofts, street art, and a gritty, avant-garde attitude. Blink and you might miss a new restaurant or rave in this ever-changing area. 
  • Median Rent: $2,450

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Dry Dock, East Village

One of NYC Parks’ “Cool Pools,” this East Village pool recently got a makeover. Updates include bright wall art, lounge chairs, and shade structures, making it a welcoming and fun place to spend time. The space includes an intermediate pool as well as a small wading pool. The area is also peppered with colorful orange umbrellas to protect you from the summer sun. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About the East Village: Perhaps the culinary epicenter of Manhattan, this vibrant neighborhood is a melting pot of smells and sounds.  St. Mark’s Place is an anchor of activity. This bustling stretch includes three avenues filled with bars, dumpling spots, and cheap eats galore. (For more insider tips, check out our East Village neighborhood guide.)
  • Median Rent: $2,800

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New York City’s Top Small Pools

Tompkins Square Pool, East Village

This minuscule three-foot pool is a lovely refuge in Alphabet City. Locals love Tompkins Square Park for its lively lawns and ever-changing (free!) lineup of music performances. Don’t miss the sizable dog run, where adorable pups are always having fun in the sun. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? No
  • About the East Village: We’ve already waxed poetic about this cosmopolitan Manhattan neighborhood (also home to Dry Docks, listed above). But the area around Tompkins Square Pool and Park deserves its own accolades. By day, dip your feet into this small pool. By night, join the throngs of revelers at the corner of Avenue A and 7th street. Patrons from Miss Lily’s Jamaican restaurant and nearby Niagra bar often spill into the streets.   
  • Median Rent: $2,800

Vesuvio Playground, SoHo

We end with one more small wonder downtown. This mini NYC public pool might be tiny, but it’s the perfect place to cool off after a long day of window-shopping in Soho. It’s technically for kids and teens (up to 16) only, but adults can sneak in if accompanying a young child. Regardless of age, everyone can take advantage of the complex’s basketball courts and — most important for a hot day — the spray showers. 

*Note: This pool is currently closed, but is slated to reopen this summer. Check the park’s website for updated information. 

  • Wheelchair Accessible Pool? Yes 
  • About SoHo: Fashionistas flock from around the world to SoHo, Manhattan’s sartorial center. Filled with high-end brands, boutique shops, and upscale cafes, this is a place to see and be seen. To refuel on caffeine (and pastries), stop by French bakery Maman for a quick coffee and pain au chocolat
  • Median Rent: $4,120

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Whether you’re looking to rent or to buyfind your next NYC apartment on StreetEasy.