GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Dept. of Public Works is set to begin demolition work at the Littauer Pool Site on Wednesday, which will include filling-in the 1957-vintage, 7,725 square foot T-shaped pool and preliminary work towards the eventual demolition of the 1920s bath house.
During Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, Dept. of Public Works Director Donald Schwartz explained to the council why he has determined the city needs to clear off all of the existing infrastructure at the old Littauer Pool Site, which has been closed to the public since at least 2004.
“No efforts were made to maintain, let alone preserve, what was there,” he said. “That’s [almost] 21 years of neglect. No heat, no occupancy, no real maintenance… . cement pools, regardless of the coating that goes on the cement, don’t do well when they’re not submerged in water. The coating is completely destroyed.”
Schwartz said there is heaving and “spider cracking” throughout the old Littauer Pool’s concrete lining and “football-sized chunks of concrete” are falling out of it. He said he’s afraid the site is dangerous and he often sees “fresh footprints in the snow,” at the site, which he believes may belong to children who live at the nearby Gloversville Housing Authority Dubois Garden Apartments.
“At this point what we’re saving is nothing more than the hole in the ground,” he said. “My folks, with their equipment, can dig holes that size in two days. It’s unsafe; every time I go over to Dubois’ pump station, I see fresh tracks in the snow. I go over there to make sure nobody has fallen into the pool or gotten hurt or worse. The fence [needs to come down], everything over there is a total loss. There’s no other way for me to say it.”
The Common Council has not discussed the fate of the Littauer Pool Site since tabling the issue indefinitely in February after reviewing the 39-page feasibility study for the site written by Albany-based engineering firm Barton & Loguidice at a cost of $15,750, paid from the $16,000 left over from a $24,100 grant the city received from the Littauer Foundation in 2007 for the purpose of supporting pool operations at the site.
Prior to the council’s vote to use the Littauer Foundation money to pay for the feasibility study, the issue of bringing back the Littauer Pool Site had become a political football in the 2021 mayoral election, with Republican candidate William Rowback Jr. advocating the city focus some resources on restoring the old site.
Barton & Loguidice’s feasibility study laid out three potential options for the long dormant 7.4 acre city property:
• Renovate the existing facilities, restoring the pool to operation and building a new bathhouse for $3.5 million — with the caveat that the cost might increase if asbestos were to be found in the bathhouse
• Replace the existing pool with a similar type pool of a smaller size with new splash pad spray park, new concrete deck area and new bathhouse for $4.1 million
• Replace the existing pool, bathhouse and shed buildings with a new splash pad and bathroom facility for $1.3 million
But in February, the consensus of the council, indicating a weariness to the potential costs of restoring a pool of any kind to the property, and the cost and logistics of hiring lifeguards for a restored summer city-pool program, tabled the issue until Schwartz brought it back up Tuesday night.
Schwartz told the council city building inspector David Fox has officially condemned the old bath house building. He said the city needs to do an environmental study of the contents of the building first, to determine if there are any hazardous materials like asbestos, but after that he said it should be demolished.
“The building is roughly 100 years old,” he said. “And it has a second floor that has been open to the elements for 19 to 20 years, and there is a large amount of animal and bird fecal matter, to the point where it’s deemed unsafe to go up there. On the main floor, everything is painted with lead paint and it’s peeling and chipping, and all of that lead paint would have to be remediated before it was deemed safe. The floor is heaving severely and cracking in spots, and around the perimeter of the building it is pulling away from the support walls. In some places, there are six to eight-inch gaps. It’s not structurally sound.”
Schwartz said it’s his plan to hire HRP Associates of Clifton Park to do the environmental study of the contents of the building, provided the cost is below the threshold required for a competitive bidding process.
During Tuesday’s meeting, 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said she’s been fighting for the restoration of the Littauer Pool Site since her first tenure on the council 15 years ago.
“Since 2008, I’ve been trying to do something with that pool, and at the time I first went there, that pool was not that bad,” she said. “They could have fixed it for $160,000, but at the time [former Mayor Tim Hughes] said it was my idea and I’m contentious, and he would not do what I thought we should do. But I will continue to fight for it.”
Schwartz said he believes if the bathhouse had been properly maintained, it could have been saved, but that didn’t happen. He said the pool has significant design problems that are no longer in compliance with current municipal pool safety regulations and the facility is not in compliance with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act. He said he believes either state regulators or private lawsuits would have forced major, costly renovations at the Littauer Pool site, even if it had never been shut down.
“If it was at 100% today, we couldn’t open it tomorrow in its shape,” he said. “There is a ton of work that would have to be done. Even the main drains in the deep end of the pool are considered dangerous nowadays. You’d have to rip open the bottom of the pool and put it back in.”
Schwartz said the Littauer Pool site also has a completely enclosed underground control room, which is no longer legal and the pool is “plumbed into the storm sewer system” which is no longer legal under the city code, so it would have to be connected instead to the sanitary sewer system. He said he intends to produce a video to be streamed on the city’s Facebook page next week that will illustrate the problems with the facility.
“Right now, it’s a matter of making the property safe,” said 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski. “It’s not about what we’re going to do with it in the future, but we’ve got to make it safe for right now.”
Anadio acknowledged that Schwartz’s assessment of the safety problems at the site are accurate, and agreed the existing structures need to be demolished.
“I didn’t question that, Don,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Because I went through it with you, but if they’d done it in 2008, it would be fine, probably, but nobody cared,” Anadio said.
Anadio she said she suggested a video be made to explain the facts to the public.
“Yes, it’s in bad shape, and I asked you to please take video because the people here remember putting the little number on their bathing suit, and having the basket to put their stuff in, and putting it up there and then they’d come out of swimming,” she said. “There’s a lot of history with that pool. Those sides came down, and they had dances with actual orchestras up there. For people in this city, that’s history, and I hate to see that gone. And the reason I would like a video is because if you ever [built another pool house building], I’d like it to be similar to what it is right now. I think it would be encouraging for teenagers to see something being done for them to do, and then if you did all of those things in one area, that’s where they’d be, and it would be easier to control.”
Anadio said she believes Gloversville should still have a municipal pool, like other communities in the greater Capital Region, listing the cities of Amsterdam, Schenectady, Troy, Albany, Cohoes, the village of Little Falls and the Town of Queensbury.
“Why can’t Gloversville have a pool?” she said. “We’re doing so well. Why can’t we have something for teenagers, because they have nothing to do. With that 7.4 acres, we could put a skateboard park up there. We could put a bike trail. There’s a lot we could do with that kind of property.”
Mayor Vince DeSantis said the council should remember the city also owns the adjacent 13-acre, former Risedorph tannery site at 130-184 8th Ave., which could be combined with the Littauer Pool site for a larger, city-owned recreational facility.
“We have an EPA grant for [the Risedorph site], so that’s actually earmarked for recreational use, so that could be an extension on that, with that 7 acres [added to the Reisdorph property],” DeSantis said. “We would probably have enough room for a baseball diamond or whatever other amenities we might want to have.”
DeSantis also asked Schwartz about the possibility of putting in a new pool.
“Don, if we were to build a pool there, we would have to do the work that you’ve proposed first, wouldn’t we?” DeSantis asked.
“Yeah, everything would have to come down to begin with,” Schwartz said.
Second Ward Councilman Art Simonds said he’s not in favor of the city building a new pool at the Littauer Pool site.
“I think there are a lot of things you can incorporate in that area,” Simonds said. “I lived there most of my life. I seen the pool built. I used the pool a lot, but I think that area, though could be developed into many things that could house our youth opportunities for recreation, things of that nature, without a pool. So, as much as I like pools, I just think they are very, very costly, and today’s regulations around pools are tremendously different than when I was using that pool, so there’s a lot of difference there.”
Schwartz said he wants the public to understand that his demolition plan, which will include taking down the fencing, and some smaller buildings on the site, will not in any way prevent the Common Council from later deciding to support a new pool at the location. He described what the demolition work beginning Wednesday will look like.
“We’ll level it all off, fill in all of the holes, and then we’ll seed it,” he said. “We will build, maybe 12, nice-sized picnic tables. I’m going to buy some grills. We’ll put them out there.”