Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center remains closed after years of repairs

The $67M Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center, equipped with an Olympic-size swimming pool and NHL-regulation ice rink, has sat empty and unused for nearly three years.

"Knowing how delayed and how expensive the capital process is in this city," Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, who represents District 25 encompassing Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Queens said. "I would be willing to bet this has been a far too expensive or far too delayed project."

The city’s Parks and Rec Department closed the facility for roof repairs before the pandemic in January 2020, promising the fix would only take six weeks. It took over a year. But the city kept it shut down to repair its movable floor. Currently, only 10% of the construction is complete.

FOX 5 reached out to get a tour of what’s been done in the last two years and 10 months. The department didn’t respond.  

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"The Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center is the biggest facility in Queens, another one that’s smaller in St. Albans, is also closed too," said Krishnan, "Which means Queens residents don’t have access to swimming facilities while residents in Manhattan do."

Krishnan, who says he represents one of the most diverse immigrant communities in the world, says this three-year delay is fundamentally a racial justice issue and inequity for the residents who can’t work out in the pool, for members who paid and never received refunds, and the children who can’t learn to swim in it.

"Think of us as a city of water, and yet we don’t have the infrastructure to provide the appropriate training to 8.5 million citizens," Shawn Slevin, the founder of Swim Strong Foundation. The non-profit Swim Strong Foundation used the Flushing pool to teach affordable swimming lessons, but their mission has been curtailed by the city’s lack of useable pools. 

"There’s 58 of them, but only 12 of those are actually swimming pools," Slevin said "And of those 12 pools, only six are actually open year-round, and of those six, the flushing meadow aquatic center is closed. So you do the math. 8.5 million people into five public swimming pools."

The Parks and Rec department plans to open the pool next month in January 2023. But beware, the plan to shut it down again in 2014 for more roof and HVAC repairs. That repair job could take anywhere from a year to 18 months.