Sunset Park

Sunset Park 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.

What was here before?

The dramatic bluff at Sunset Park is part of a massive rock outcropping and ridge across Brooklyn and Queens created through glacial deposits during the last Ice Age. Facing west towards New York harbor and beyond, the park and pool take their name from this fine vantage point for viewing sunsets.   

How did this site become a pool?

The summer of 1936, deep in the Great Depression, broke local heat records. Sunset Park Pool was one of eleven immense outdoor public pools the Parks Department opened that summer. The heroically scaled pools project was financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of a massive effort to alleviate adverse health conditions and provide safe recreation in predominantly working-class communities.

The pools were not just huge but also examples of state-of-the-art engineering and fine design. Each pool had separate swimming, diving and wading areas, perimeter bleachers, and bathhouses whose locker rooms served as gyms during non-summer months.Led by architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the planning team produced a series of distinct complexes, each one sensitive to its site and topography. Massive filtration systems, heating units, and even underwater lighting provided a more controlled bathing experience than the often treacherous and polluted waterways in which the City’s masses had traditionally swum. The palette of pools building materials was mainly inexpensive brick, concrete and cast stone, but the styles ranged from Romanesque Revival to Art Deco.

Sunset Park Pool measures 256 feet by 165 feet and was designed by architect Herbert Magoon to accommodate 4,850 bathers at a time. The facility is notable for its gracefully curved façade.  At the opening on July 20, 1936, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia dramatically flipped a switch, activating the pool’s underwater lighting system. City Controller Frank J. Taylor himself, a Sunset Park resident, remarked that if the heatwave that plagued the city returned, he would have to don swim trunks and try the pool himself. The pool, along with the Sunset Play Center, was designated a NYC landmark in 2007 and continues to provide the community with critical relief during the summer months. 

Directions to Sunset Park

Was this information helpful?