The swimmobiles that cooled off a hot city

Bathhouses, beaches, community pools, floating pools docked off the East River—you can’t say New York hasn’t made an effort over the years to keep residents cool on hot summer days.

And for those who couldn’t get to a pool, the city brought a pool to them. These were the “swimmobiles,” pools attached to a truck which could be parked on a street all day and conveniently towed away at night.


“‘Swimmobiles’ began during the Heckscher administration [1960s-1970s] that literally took pools to the streets to underserved areas,” says the Parks Department website.

A 1976 New York Times article stated that the city owned five mobile pools, which were towed from Randalls Island to different corners of the city. Looks like fun, no?

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18 Responses to “The swimmobiles that cooled off a hot city”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    What a brilliant idea! This was not only extremely thoughtful, it was obviously created by a person who understood the importance of every child getting to do ‘fun summertime activities.’ The photo shows what a wonderful practice this was and (because I live in the Mid-South and do not frequent NYC), I hopeI hope these traveling-swim-delights are still being offered in the city today.

  2. ontheupcyclemom Says:

    Wow I never heard of this! What a great idea! You would never see anything like this now!

  3. Rich T Says:

    Maybe this was the inspiration for the Springfield Pool-mobile.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I totally forgot about that!

  5. Steve Swirsky Says:

    I worked on the swim mobile that summer. I am in the picture. Eye Witness News did a piece on us that summer.

  6. Steve Swirsky Says:

    I am the guy at the back left ladder.

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Hey, that is cool. Do you remember where this photo was taken?

  8. Steve Swirsky Says:

    We were always in the Bronx. Different neighborhood and community groups, etc. usually 1, sometimes 2 per day. This is probably simmer 1972. ABC Eyewitness News did a story on swim mobile. Would love to find it. Not sure what street this is but I think around Tremont.

  9. Steve Swirsky Says:

    There was only 1 swim mobile when I worked. Parks Department had a mobile units program. Jazz mobile, arts and crafts mobile and others. We worked out of a Flushing Meadow Park garage. Drove to and from Bronx each day.

  10. chas Says:

    ‘had one in my neighborhood back in the day…we swam in it but always laughed about it being a giant toilet…(gross I know, but hey we were kids right?)

  11. -e- Says:

    Did these drive full, (lord, what that must have weighed!), or fill at a hydrant and add chlorine on site? I remember a friend mentioning this, but we lived in Queens, and I never saw one.

  12. Steve Swirsky Says:

    we would fill these from hydrants when we set up. The swim-mobile had a chlorinator system mounted on the frame of the trailer, just ahead of the pool area and behind the cab. It would take a good 45 minutes to fill the pool. Water was not heated, It was a lot of fun riding in the empty pool as we would cross the Whitestone Bridge heading from Flushing Meadow to the Bronx and back.

  13. ken palmeri Says:

    We had one in Rochester NY

  14. Kevin Jacobs Says:

    I also drove for this program which was headquartered at Flushing Meadow Park where the tennis facility is today. I do not remember driving the pool mobile but I did drive the skate mobile and the play mobile. The play mobile delivered various games and toys to locations throughout the city. We especially enjoyed Saturdays because Saturday usually meant a block party with lots of great food!

  15. Mark A Newman Says:

    I love that these comments have more info than the original post! And the first thing I also thought of was the Simpsons!

  16. Christine Boone Says:

    I’ve never seen one, the only water we had brought to us was the johnny pump. Conservatively called the fire hydrant now…

  17. Cristin Emond Says:

    I remember the swim mobile coming to PS 16 in the bronx in the 70’s. It was so exciting to watch it oull up and when filled it was a free for all….caould not wait to dive into the ice cold water! It was amazing and yes thoughtful.

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