By Alex Petroski
As a waterfront village, a group of more than 120 community members think Port Jefferson is missing one major and logical element: a place to swim. Led by Todd Pittinsky, a four-year village resident and Stony Brook University professor, a group interested in bringing a public pool to Port Jefferson is mobilizing, gaining support and preparing to present ideas and data to the village board.
The where, when and how are still up in the air, according to Pittinsky, but one thing that is unquestionable is the public interest in the project. Pittinsky created a Facebook page called Port + Pool as a way to gauge support for his vision. At the time of print the page has 123 followers.
“When we moved here it was the one thing we couldn’t find,” Pittinsky said in an interview. He said he has a 3-year-old son he’d like to have the opportunity to teach how to swim, though creating a place where the community can gather and enjoy together is also one of his goals. In a Dec. 17 post on the page, Pittinsky spelled out some of the major benefits he believes a public pool would bring to the community. He cited health benefits of swimming for exercise, the importance of teaching kids how to swim especially on Long Island, a possible boost in property values, additional revenue for the village and a place for kids to spend their time productively as some of the possible positive outcomes of his vision.
The group hasn’t decided if an outdoor or indoor pool would be best, but Pittinsky said several members would like to be able to use it year-round. He added he has seen designs that incorporate both lanes, for people who want to swim laps for health reasons with areas designated for play for kids, all incorporated into one. Currently Edna Louise Spear Elementary School has an indoor pool though it is only open to the public twice per week.
Pittinsky said it is too early in the process to start discussing possible costs, but his goal is for the Facebook group to eventually be involved in fundraising for the project to offset some of the potential cost for the village, should the ball truly get rolling. The group has brainstormed five potential locations, though they haven’t gained permission from any of the necessary parties just yet. He suggested the Port Jefferson Country Club as a possible spot because it is already open to the public and they are trying to increase membership. Other possibilities include a floating pool within Port Jefferson Harbor; somewhere uptown where revitalization projects are beginning and apartment buildings are being constructed; Roosevelt Park, which the village is in the process of repurposing; or even Danfords Hotel and Marina.
At least one member of the board of trustees is willing to explore the idea along with the community. Stanley Loucks sits on the board, and is also the liaison for the country club.
“This is a marvelous idea — a swimming pool at the country club would be a major plus for the club members as well as the Village,” Loucks said in an email. “A pool facility is probably the only missing attraction in Port Jefferson. I personally retired from a school district that had two competition-sized swimming pools that were used 24/7. The potential for programs for all age groups is endless not to mention the free swim fitness aspect. It would seem the country club would be the natural location if this were to become a reality. I can tell you from my experience, this endeavor would be extremely expensive; however, would certainly pay for itself over time.”
Julia Bear, a Poquott resident and a member of Pittinsky’s group, said she would be in favor of a public pool in Port Jefferson.
“There are few pool options close by to the Three Village/Port Jeff area,” she said in an email. “A community pool is a great family alternative that meets the needs of kids and adults of all ages. In particular, it provides older children with a nice alternative to the mall. Overall, I am very supportive of this endeavor, and my hope is that it will bring the community together and perhaps we’ll even get into better shape in the process.”
Another group member, a Port Jefferson resident and Stony Brook ecology professor, pointed out the potential environmental dangers if everyone in a community had their own pool at their home.
“If each homeowner builds their own outdoor pool, it is a waste of water, energy, and resources, and we are all more isolated from each other,” Joshua Rest said in an email. “If a village builds a pool, then we all share in the cost, the environmental impact is reduced, and we build a community of strong swimmers.”
Pittinsky said his plan is to hold an informational meeting later in February to gauge public interest and figure out where to go from here. For more information or to support the project, visit www.facebook.com/portpluspool/.