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This summer, Brooklynites will again be diving into the old McCarren Park Pool for fun, but they won’t be getting wet.

The Williamsburg pool, which was originally built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration, held just under 7,000 people in its heyday. It was shut down in 1984 due to its derelict condition, according to Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson. But now, the city of New York is looking to restore the 50,000-square-foot giant back to its natural aquatic state.

To start the process, the pool will play host to a series of concerts this summer, all organized by promoter Live Nation, to raise awareness of the McCarren Park Pool. The music series will begin July 29 with British indie rock band Bloc Party, performing with the Secret Machines and Mew.

"There has been an interest by many in the community and many city officials in restoring the pool," said Abramson. "But to do that, we need funds, so that we can make the area safe for public access."

The required funds that the city would need to restore the pool would likely exceed $40 million. The pool walls are covered in graffiti, there are broken bricks and chipped paint around the pavilion, and greenery has overtaken the pool floor, Abramson said.

Last year, choreographer Noemie Lafrance persuaded the Parks Department to let her put on a dance performance at the pool. The department believed that public interest in the pool would be the first step in gaining the necessary awareness for donations to raise money for its repair.

In return for the privilege of hosting performances at the pool, two groups donated a total of $250,000 to the Parks department to renovate the site for short-term use of the venue. Lafrance’s dance company gave $50,000, and Live Nation gave $200,000, and earned the right to host 10 performances this summer. They chose to host seven.

Following the opening performance on July 29, there will be more indie rock performances on Aug. 11 with Williamsburg’s own Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sonic Youth and Blood on the Wall, while on Aug. 12 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sonic Youth will be joined by Awesome Color.

The fourth performance in the series will be on Aug. 17, when the indie folk group Iron and Wine will perform, with special guest Low. Aug. 23 will feature indie group The Shins with J. Mascis, and Aug. 24 will have indie country singer Neko Case perform along with Joanna Newsom and Martha Wainwright.

The series will conclude on Sept. 9 with jam band Gov’t Mule with special guest Wolfmother and Two Gallants.

"The whole goal of this is to have the pool become a pool again," said Sam Kinken, vice president of clubs and theaters for Live Nation. "I’ve lived in Williamsburg for five years, and it’s depressing to go by everyday and see this eyesore to the public. What better way to help the community out and present shows in an incredible, eclectic space?"

The pool is 4-feet-deep all around. The audience will enter the pool at the southeast end, where there is a gentle slope from the lip of the pool to the pool’s basin. The entire perimeter of the McCarren Park Pool looks like a castle, according to Kinken.

"It’s fort-like from the outside," he said. On the way inside, spectators will pass under a large brick arch and see the ground level stage.

"That’s why this makes so much sense," Kinken said. "The stage is already set up, and the pool is so big it will appear like you are just watching a show at a regular concert venue. Out of all of the potential places in the city to start something like this in the last 10 years, this has garnered more interest than any of them, to get this place back on its feet."

However, in spite of the seemingly perfect concert setting and overwhelming desire by city officials and the community to restore the pool, there has been some concern about the Live Nation concert series.

"People are upset about this, and Live Nation has drawn a lot of criticism," Kinken said. "A lot of people are just afraid of change. Hopefully, people will be able to see that this is something good that hasn’t been done before. When’s the last time you heard someone asking you to see a show in a pool? I hope they’ll realize that it’s for a good cause in the end."


Live Nation will present seven shows at McCarren Park Pool (at Lorimer Street, Driggs Avenue and Bayard Street in Williamsburg) beginning July 29. Tickets for the July 29 show, with Bloc Party, Secret Machines and Mew, are $35. Doors open at 5 pm.

The Aug. 11 and 12 shows, featuring Sonic Youth and Yeah Yeah Yeahs will also include Blood on the Wall on Aug. 11 and Awesome Color on Aug. 12. Advance tickets are $36 and $41 on the day of the show. Doors open at 5 pm.

On Aug. 17, Iron & Wine and Low will perform. Advance tickets are $33.50 and $36 on the day of the show. Doors open at 5 pm.

On Aug. 23, The Shins with J. Mascis Advance will perform. Tickets are $26 on the day of the show and in advance. Doors open at 5 pm.

On Aug. 24, Neko Case will play with Joanna Newsom and Martha Wainwright. Advance tickets are $33.50 and are $36 on the day of the show. Doors open at 5 pm.

On Sept. 9, Gov’t Mule, Wolfmother and Two Gallants perform. Advance tickets are $39.50 and are $45 on the day of the show. Doors open at 4 pm.

All tickets are general admission, standing room only. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and charge-by-phone (212) 307-7171. For information, call (212) 777-6800 or (212) 777-1224, or visit the Web sites: and

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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