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By Drew Villano

Summer is miserable without a body of water to dunk into, but as awesome as this city is in so many regards, its more than a bit deficient in the pool department. So how does one swim safely, cleanly, and without emerging with a dirty diaper stuck to the side of their face in New York? Here’s a comprehensive guide including 10 do-or-absolutely-do-not places to swim in NYC.

Coney Island

Filth: Level 2

Discomfort: Level 2

Travel Effort: Level 1

Coney Island has been maintained pretty well since it was infiltrated by white people with loads of money to spend at the surrounding amusement parks. However, comfort and cleanliness are still largely dependent upon the day you choose to visit the beach. Saturdays and Sundays are typically a nightmare because the beach fills up, auditorium style, and the trash cans start (and don’t stop) overflowing. Beware the treacherous piss coated everything in the public bathrooms. Discomfort level is reduced to a 1 or even 0 on most weekdays, but is at a 2 for weekend visitors (and I’m being generous).

The Pool at Any Nightclub

Filth: Level 3

Discomfort: Comfortable

Travel Effort: Level 1

It’s only comfortable because it’s so fucking dirty that no one else will go near it.

South Beach, Staten Island

Filth: Clean

Discomfort: Level 1

Travel Effort: Level 2

The ferry is free, but cars have to pay $13 to enter the giant trash pile that is Staten Island. And that “trash pile” thing is a gross misconception; while Staten Island does have a gigantic Shit Mountain that reeks of death and is incessantly surrounded by wailing seagulls, it’s far enough away from South Beach that you won’t even know it exists. South Beach is a surprisingly clean, attractive, not-too-crowded beach only a ferry trip and bus ride away. For anyone looking to hoard sticks, the South Beach shore is also known to be littered with beautiful pieces of driftwood.

Gowanus Canal

Filth: Level 3

Discomfort: Level 3

Travel Effort: Level 1

If you’re trying to die a slow, painful death in which you (probably) grow a tail and develop a brand new type of cancer, the Gowanus Canal is your new favorite place to swim. The sludgy, oil-painted waters of the Gowanus Canal have literally been infected with gonorrhea. When I was a child, there were rumors circulating that a man accidentally swallowed Gowanus Canal water and died. Another famous urban legend involved a body who had been dumped in the water and decomposed at three times the normal rate. Both claims are totally unsubstantiated, but you’d still be absolutely balls-out, deathwish insane to swim in this toxic waste.

Brighton Beach

Filth: Level 1

Discomfort: Comfortable

Travel Effort: Level 1

Brighton Beach is both cleaner and less populated than Coney Island, but just as easy to reach. There are no fancy amusement parks or crazy attractions, but amazing and authentic Russian food abounds, and Coney Island is just a stroll down the boardwalk.

McCarren Park Pool

Filth: Level 2

Discomfort: Level 3

Travel Effort: Level 1

The idea of swimming in a rank soup with a great deal of strangers from any area is daunting, but McCarren Park’s extra-crowdedness is especially gross. The amount of chlorine they must have to use to nuke the water is also disturbing. Did I mention that sitting elbow to elbow with a bunch of clammy, wet strangers sounds more like the fifth level of hell than a fun summertime activity? You’re better off heading over to the cleaner and less populated Sunset Park Outdoor Pool in Brooklyn or the Red Hook Recreation Center’s Pool, also in Brooklyn. Just not on the weekends. Never on the weekends.

Breezy Point and Ries Park

Filth: Clean

Discomfort: Comfortable

Travel Effort: Level 3

Breezy Point and Ries Park are arguably two of the absolute best beaches in all of NYC. The water is noticeably cleaner than other beaches, the sand has less random crap in it, and the waves get pretty big. Because these areas are both very large and considered remote to the thousands who rely on public transportation, weekends trips to these beaches are comfortable and not so cramped. But if you don’t have a car, getting there can kind of suck; you’re either facing a lengthy bike ride or a train trip on the A all the way to the end (Rockaway Park/Beach 116th St) and then a bus ride down to the beach.

Dead Horse Bay

Filth: Level 3

Discomfort: Level 2

Travel Effort: Level 3

Dead Horse Bay is for all you antisocial urban explorers who are searching for a beach abandoned by man, where you can go and wander in solitude, only occasionally suffering the company of a few passersby. Also for those who hate swimming, Dead Horse Bay is a semi-secret beach near Fort Tilden (before the bridge) which was formerly used as both a garbage dump and a horse rendering facility. Although this beach is completely covered in antique garbage and chopped up horse bones, the wild greenery surrounding the beach, the sounds of glass clinking beneath the waves, and the unique population of birds make this area a truly surreal spot. Straggling old men roam around, slowly picking through the ruins for old pieces of gold or random trinkets to salvage. You should at least check it out. Or don’t. Like I said: I don’t want to see you there.

Long Beach, Long Island

Filth: Clean

Discomfort: Comfortable

Travel Effort: Level 3

It’s not technically in NYC, but Long Island is reachable and has the best beaches. That is undebatable. They have vineyards and white sand. I mean, come on. They have weird shells and sea animals you didn’t even know existed in (or around) NYC. Many of Long Island’s beaches are private communities, which means you’ll either have to sneak on or look up a list of public ones, of which there are many. Jones Beach is an excellent public beach, albeit a bit distant from the city. Oyster Bay is also public, and beautiful—if you like being attacked by an onslaught of swamp insects. The only downside to visiting a beach in Long Island is paying for the absurdly overpriced LIRR, which is especially ridiculous for those trying to take the long trip out to Montauk.

Your Rich Friend’s Private Pool

Filth: Clean

Discomfort: Comfortable

Travel Effort: Very Easy

Your rich friend lets you come over and swim in the pool, which is Olympic-sized, anytime you want. There are always fun, interesting and intelligent people hanging out around the pool. They are all attractive and think you are, too. They tell each other (including you) as much on a regular basis. No one ever shits or leaves random garbage in the water, and sometimes your friend will even pay for your cab home after you’ve spent a week living in their mansion and going for daily swims. Plus, the water in the pool is occasionally replaced with champagne. I’m going back to sleep now.

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