The politics of race and class and the changing spatial fortunes of the McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, New York, 1936-2010

Themis Chronopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the changing spatial properties of the McCarren Pool and connects them to the politics of race and class. The pool was a large liberal government project that sought to improve the leisure time of working class Brooklynites and between 1936 and the early 1970s it was a quasi-public functional space. In the 1970s and the early 1980s, the pool became a quasi-public dysfunctional space because the city government reduced its maintenance and staffing levels. Working class whites of the area engaged into neighborhood defense in order to prevent the influx of Latinos and African Americans into parts of Williamsburg and Greenpoint and this included the environs of the McCarren Pool. The pool was shut down in 1983 because of a mechanical failure. Its restoration did not take place because residents and storekeepers near the vicinity of the pool complained that by the 1970s, it was only African Americans and Latinos who patronized the pool and that their presence in the neighborhood undermined white exclusivity. For two decades, the McCarren Pool became a multi-use alternative space frequented by homeless people, graffiti artists, heroin users, teenagers, and drug dealers. Unlike previous decades, during this period, people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds frequented the pool area in a relatively harmonious manner. In the early part of the twenty-first century, a neoliberal city administration allowed a corporation to organize music concerts in the pool premises and promised to restore the facility into an operable swimming pool. The problem with this restoration project is that the history of the pool between the early 1970s and the early 2000s is downplayed and this does not serve well former or future users of the pool
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-122
Number of pages18
JournalSpace and Culture
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

Cite this