New Kid on the Block: Imagine Swimming

It’s not entirely fair to call Imagine Swimming a “new kid on the block,” given that the company has been offering children’s swim lessons at BMCC since 2004 (and for two years before that at Hunter College and Hunter’s Brookdale Campus). But as of today, Imagine has its own pool, in a 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor of 40 Harrison, in Independence Plaza. “The pool has been here since 1975 or 1976, but it’s been empty almost the entire time,” says Imagine co-founder Casey Barrett (above right). “The company we hired to renovate the pool had actually built it. They were glad to see how well it held up.”

Barrett says the space was most recently home to a Montessori school, although that was around 10 years ago. He and co-founder Lars Mersburg (above left) oversaw a total overhaul: Beyond the pool—which is about 20 yards long, and in its own room with windows on one side so parents can watch—is a large open area with chairs and vending machines (“We did our best to get the healthiest possible options,” says Barrett); locker rooms; and even a little swim shop, which sells goggles, flippers, swimwear, and Imagine T-shirts. They had fun decorating, with a long mural of undersea life by the pool, and a surfer painting is on its way.

There’s also a yoga room, where they’re planning on offering prenatal yoga classes and birthday parties. Barrett says that the prenatal classes—with swimming as part of the regimen—will probably be midday, because pregnant women value their privacy. He has this on authority from his wife, who is five months’ pregnant; Mersburg’s wife, meanwhile, had a baby on Sunday.

Conveniently enough, they can now offer classes to kids as young as six months; the BMCC pool has to be kept just a bit too cold to accommodate children under 2 years old. All classes follow the school schedule, with summer sessions also available. (They’ll teach privately, but Barrett says kids tend to learn better in a group format.) They’ll hold community swim periods before and after work, with discounts for Independence Plaza residents. And Imagine will keep using the BMCC pool the same amount as before—so now the school’s competitive team, the Manhattan Makos, can stretch out a bit.

The move is clearly a big growth spurt: After pointing out the “islands” that get arranged in the pool so kids have something to swim to, Barrett says, “When we were starting out, we used to throw folding chairs in the water.” But as any good swimmer knows, you can’t make a splash simply by dipping in a toe.

Imagine Swimming is at 40 Harrison (just west of Greenwich); 212-253-9650,

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