Detective Keith L Williams Park

Liberty Pool

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

For outdoor pool details, including hours and rules, please visit our Free Outdoor Pools page.

Liberty Pool is located in Detective Keith L. Williams Park. Once called Liberty Park, it was renamed to honor Detective Williams, a native of this Queens neighborhood and a dedicated police officer, who lost his life in the line of duty. A large public pool, as well as a smaller pool for kids, makes this a popular bathing spot in the area.

Pools gained popularity as community facilities in 1936 when Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981), received a $10 million Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to build eleven public pools throughout New York City. The demand for sanitary bathing for New York residents was apparent. The Hudson and East Rivers, both popular bathing spots since the colonial era, had become so polluted by the early 20th century that health officials regularly warned of the risks of typhoid fever after even the briefest of dips. At 330 feet in length, Astoria Pool was the largest of the WPA pools and remains the largest pool in the city.

Pools have been a staple of civilized society since 3000 B.C., when public baths came into usage in India for ritual purposes. The ancient use of pools reached its height during the Roman Empire, when hundreds of bath complexes, filled with swimming pools, warm baths, and steam baths, constituted an integral part of the ancient Roman’s daily schedule, as well as a focal point for festivals and religious ceremonies.

This site, bounded by Liberty Avenue, 172nd, and 173rd Streets, was acquired by the City in 1936. Liberty Avenue, the park’s original namesake, runs from East New York in Brooklyn to Jamaica in Queens. Commissioner Stern changed the name to Liberty Pool in 1986. Aside from the pool, the park has a variety of recreational facilities: four handball courts, two basketball courts, ten tennis courts, a grass baseball diamond, a playground, a spray shower, and the Detective Keith L. Williams Recreation Center.

The Liberty Pool facilities, which include the wading pool, tot pool, and bathhouse, were designed by James J. O'Brien in 1969. Thelma Johnson, a former supervisor of Liberty Pool, is honored in a plaque placed at the entrance to the bathhouse, which was dedicated on September 24, 1983. The 4,500 square foot wading pool has the capacity to hold 180 bathers at a time. The smaller pool for tots is 600 square feet and the large deck (15,500 square feet) can accommodate 620 people. This pool in Jamaica gives everyone in the neighborhood the liberty to swim and have a good time.

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