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Fresh Hell

Sad Scene at the Big Cool Illegal Pool

Who built this extremely cool, extremely dangerous pool?

12:34 PM EDT on August 11, 2022

An orange pool floatie lies at the bottom of a drained pool.

The pool in question. (Hell Gate)

On Wednesday, the New York City Department of Buildings issued a dire warning to city residents: Do NOT build an illegal rooftop pool, no matter how hot it is outside and how cool it would be to have a rooftop pool.

The warning was precipitated by the City's discovery of an illegal rooftop pool in south Williamsburg, at a building on Flushing Avenue:

City officials told 1010Wins that there was "just shy of 60 tons of water sitting on top of the roof of this occupied building."

Who built this incredibly cool, incredibly dangerous rooftop pool? When I reached out to the Department of Buildings for more information, the agency's press secretary told me, "We found the pool on Tuesday, and ordered it drained that day and also to be removed," and shared the complaint filed by the City, which noted that the third floor was “occupied as [a] kids daycare center,” an apparent violation of the building’s certificate of occupancy. 

Was the pool being used by the kids daycare center? (Lucky kids!) Or, more likely in my mind, was it a group of bored, twenty-something finance bros who set up the pool to host rooftop bacchanals? On Thursday afternoon, I was curious enough to hop on my bike and make my way to the building in question, located across the street from Woodhull Hospital, to find out more about this illicit pool.

The four-story building that greeted me once I arrived, however, was eerier than I could have imagined. As the front door was unlocked, I walked right in, and it became apparent fairly quickly that it was totally empty.

(Hell Gate)

Far from being "occupied," as the DOB claimed, there appeared to be no kids daycare center on the third floor, though it seems that the building used to be the home of one. (An email sent to the daycare wasn't returned at the time of publication, though a DOB spokesperson told me after this story published that "there were children inside of the building on the third floor at the time of our inspection on Tuesday.") In fact, a large sign on the front of the building announced that it was available for rent. When I called the leasing agent, Yossi Zicherman, and informed him I had some questions about the building and the pool, he claimed that he had "never heard about" the pool. He added, "I've been in this building numerous times, I've never seen a pool in this building." (I also asked him if any business or individual was in fact renting any part of the building; he promised to get me in touch with someone who would know and then hung up on me, but not before telling me that he had "a passion for writing.")

Several workers at businesses next to the building were also unaware of this pool's existence, though one woman behind the counter at Ben's Bagels & Karla's Kitchen, a restaurant next door to the building, told me that she sometimes sees kids in swimsuits walking on the block. "I assumed they were going to the beach," she said.

But back to the building itself, which appeared to be last occupied by a job center as well as a yeshiva (and, possibly, the aforementioned daycare center). In 2019, it was put up for sale, with an asking price of $35 million, and sold at the end of 2021 for $20 million. If what I saw on Thursday is any indication, however, no school or social services center has been housed there for quite some time, though scattered throughout were boxes of toilet paper and bulk amounts of spaghetti, as well as several mattresses.

(Hell Gate)
(Hell Gate)

As for the pool, this was the scene that greeted me once I arrived on the roof: a drained pool, with a still-inflated donut-shaped pool floatie resting on the bottom; a slightly deflated, smaller blow-up pool; and numerous pool toys scattering the ground around me.

(Hell Gate)

This pool isn't exactly cheap—it currently sells for a discounted $1,329 on Walmart.com. Someone invested money, as well as time, into setting up this pool. But who? I still didn't know.

I tried to get in touch with the listed owner of the building, one Bernard Ettinger of Manhasset, New York, but was told he was unavailable.

So who was the mastermind behind this pool? Was it someone in the neighborhood exasperated by the Adams administration's incompetence this year with regard to the public pools? Some kids with a credit card and a dream? 

If you have any intel on the provenance of this extremely cool, extremely illegal pool, email me

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