Every morning at 10 a.m., a line of colorful, socially distanced beach bags snakes around the Harry Tappen Pool in Glenwood Landing, ending abruptly at a metal fence. The owners of the bags sit in their cars nearby, waiting for the pool to open at 11. But they do not all get in, which has been troubling, especially for those among them who are senior citizens.
Diane Doxey, of Glen Head, said she had been sending emails requesting an adult swim time or limited hours to Town of Oyster Bay officials since June, because families that come to the pool stay the entire day. “There is no regulation as to how long people can go into the pool,” she said. “I’ve waited there for 45 minutes on the line, and seniors that are 85 and 91 waited an hour. You can’t wait in the sun that long.”
As of Monday, the town has added a new regulation: a three-hour limit. John Pinto, the town’s commissioner of parks, said he had heard from some residents that there was a problem, and he was aware of some of their suggestions. “They said there was a long delay to get in, and we felt bad about that,” Pinto said. He added that he had spoken with Bill Zang, who oversees the town’s pools. “He heard what other municipalities were doing,” Pinto said, “so we decided to try a three-hour limit. People are happy about it.”
Tappen is a small, town-owned pool, nowhere near Olympic size, that ranges between three and five feet deep. But it has become more popular than ever in a warm summer amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the closing of many recreational facilities and forced more people to spend the season at home. Lifeguard Tara McGillicuddy, of Glen Head, said she has never seen the pool so crowded. Many people are turned away, she said, because it is often filled to capacity. The town only allows for half the normal capacity because of the pandemic.
Pool admission is limited to town residents, although they can bring guests from elsewhere. As many as 10 people per family are allowed, McGillicuddy said. Residents pay an entrance fee or purchase a seasonal membership, which varies according to age.
The town is following all of the state Covid-19-related mandates, with enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing — except when users are sitting poolside or are in the water — at all five of its pools. Railings and chairs are cleaned every 15 minutes. Pinto said he was proud of the town’s renovations of the Tappen Pool last year, when the deck area was expanded and shade structures were added.
Nada Tannen, a 22-year resident of Glen Head, said she supported the new time limit. “I have nothing against the people who are there,” she said. “If I was a young mom with kids that’s been stuck in the house since March, I’d go all day too. But there’s a beach there. Can’t they go there for a little while and then come back later?”
Tappen Pool is next to Tappen Beach. McGillicuddy said that residents can go to the beach when their pool time is up. They can even sign up again for the pool, and stay longer than three hours if there isn’t a line of people waiting. She is responsible for monitoring 22 available slots each day, adding names to a clipboard and keeping track of when people come and go. She also reminds users that their three hours are up, if necessary.
Tappen is popular not only because it is a gathering place for residents. There is a snack bar within walking distance, and inside the pool there is a designated area where people can eat. The pool is surrounded by tables with chairs and umbrellas.
Chris Bourie, of Sea Cliff, said she supported the three-hour rule, though she was saddened that she could no longer stay all day. “With the pool half filled to capacity because of the coronavirus, it’s much nicer here,” she said. “In years past there were too many kids.”
Friends Heidi Askin, of Sea Cliff, and Elizabeth Sadowski, of Glen Head, are making an effort to go to the pool 100 days in a row. They have already been there 65 straight days, Askin said.
Sadowski wasn’t happy with the time limit, she said, because she and Askin like to arrive when the pool opens and stay until 4, three hours before it closes. “I want a partial refund if I can’t stay all day,” Askin said. “I’m not complaining — I just want to get what I paid for.”
Allison Manno, of Sea Cliff, had three boys, ages 13, 11 and 9, waiting for her at home, ready to swim if she could get in. Standing on line, she said she hoped to sign up for one of the slots, go home to get her boys and then return.
“My boys learned to swim here,” Manno said. “In the past we used to come at 6 p.m., but I keep hearing it’s impossible to get in. I was crossing my fingers when I drove here that I’d get in today.”
Waiting for a slot with her three children, Lorraine Popowitz, of Glen Cove, avoided the sprinkler on the pool’s lawn. “I come in in the morning and I see the same people waiting,” she said, adding that she approved of the three-hour limit, because “we have to share.”