LIKE iced tea, perhaps, or casual Fridays, outdoor pools are in many minds forever linked with summer. After all, the sensation of sun on wet skin after a few dips in the deep end just about sums up the season.
But that pleasure is denied to most apartment-dwellers in New York City. If their building has a pool at all, it is probably of the enclosed kind.
Of the approximately 150 pools in residential buildings in Manhattan, only about 15 are outside, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; some of those 15 are in private town houses.
And as new developments more commonly choose indoor pools, their outdoor counterparts are becoming the rarest of amenities — a fact that seems only to embolden their fans.
“It’s a really, really nice feature, especially with all this heat this year,” Steve Brookstone said on a recent afternoon while sitting by the outdoor pool at the St. Tropez, a condominium at 340 East 64th Street. There was a faint smell of coconut oil in the air, as a dozen or so people basked in the sun and a man wearing goggles did the crawl with Midtown’s skyscrapers as a backdrop.
“You’re able to cool off, you’re able to swim and you’re able to meet your neighbors,” he said.
Six years ago Mr. Brookstone, a wine store owner, moved from Baldwin, N.Y., on Long Island, to a two-bedroom owned by his family in the St. Tropez, in part because he was such a fan of the pool. In fact, his every-other-day visits to the rooftop aerie prompted the condo’s board to make him head of its pool committee, which means he has to make sure that only those who have paid their $200 seasonal dues can access this would-be Riviera in the sky.
The first pool in an apartment building in New York was very likely the five-lane model inside London Terrace Towers, the co-op part of the vast London Terrace complex on West 23rd Street in Chelsea. Residents began swimming there in 1930.
But like most pools built since, it is enclosed. New or converted condominium buildings, like 20 Pine Street in the financial district; the Edge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and the Aldyn on the Upper West Side, all offer indoor places to swim, as do new rentals like New York by Gehry, on Spruce Street.
A hybrid approach was adopted by other developments, like 100 11th Avenue, whose 70-foot-long pool can be partly opened to the outdoors in season.
But a few new developments have broken with the pack by placing their pools completely outdoors, where swimmers can enjoy cooling natural breezes. Among these are the Mercedes House, a rental and condo from Two Trees Management near Hell’s Kitchen, and 2 Cooper, a rental from the Atlantic Development Group on the Bowery.
On that recent weekday afternoon at the St. Tropez, which opened in 1964, there was a sense that the building might have had more sunbathers in the past.
Kathy Mulkeen, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, is currently listing a three-bedroom three-bath apartment in the building, No. 27A, for $2.1 million. Ms. Mulkeen, who has sold 60 units in the building since the early 1990s, says that the families who have been buying there in recent years tended to have second homes in beachy locales, meaning they only occasionally hit the roof. “They tend to go away on weekends a lot,” she said.
At other buildings, the pool’s popularity has made it a source of conflict.
The A Building, a glass-and-steel 96-unit condo at 425 East 13th Street in the East Village, opened in 2008, and quickly acquired a spring-break-style reputation for swinging pool parties.
To get the situation under control, the building hired security guards to limit access to the roof, whose focal point is a pool ringed with manicured hedges that wouldn’t be out of place in a South Florida hotel, though it gazes out over the tops of tenements.
These days all residents and guests must be prepared to show photo IDs to swim, and to wear wristbands while there, according to the building’s rules, which were updated in June. Somewhat cryptically, the rules also state that “staff has been instructed to call the police should people be found sleeping on the roof deck. It is assumed that anyone doing so is a vagrant.” (No water balloons are allowed, either.)
Even though the pool might seem too popular for its own good, the building’s developers say they have no regrets. “I would put a pool on a roof again, 100 percent,” said Robert Kaliner, the president of the Ascend Group, which was a development partner in the A Building with Magnum Real Estate Group. “It’s an incredible amenity, and people are enjoying it.”
Penthouse E in the building, a two-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath unit with wide-plank oak floors, motorized shades and a spacious terrace, is listed at $1.895 million with Jonathan Isaacs and Steven Ganz of Aligned Real Estate.
After the A Building went up, Mr. Kaliner teamed with Magnum again on another condo with an outdoor pool, 133 West 22nd Street in Chelsea, where No. 10B, a one-bedroom with one and a half baths, three closets and Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets, is listed for $1.35 million with Shawn Felker of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
Instead of being sited on the roof, which offers numerous wood-lined lounging areas, the robin’s-egg-blue pool is in the building’s backyard, which may be a first for New York.
Mr. Kaliner says the decision to tuck it away there had nothing to do with the A Building’s problems but merely allowed for a nice flow from the adjacent fitness center. “I liked the idea of people being on a treadmill overlooking it,” he said.
It is not a given that pools — indoors or out — add a premium to prices, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal company Miller Samuel.
Mr. Miller said that in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, pools were often seen as must-have amenities, and that some new rental and condo buildings still portray them as such. But while a pool might have influenced a decision to buy or rent, people weren’t necessarily willing to pay more, back then or even today.
Judging from his own experience living in a building with a pool some 25 years ago, Mr. Miller said, residents didn’t seem to use it all that much once they had moved in. He added that that might have had something to do with the overpowering smell of the chlorine then in use.
Pools today generally smell a lot less harsh. Products replacing the old powdered form of bleach are usually premixed with water, making them less pungent, said Jamie Damaso, the owner of New Fitness Pool Management of Manhattan, which cleans and provides lifeguards at the rooftop pool at the Newbury, a co-op at 250 East 87th Street.
Built in 1970, the Newbury has a rooftop pool that on busy hot weekend days sees about 40 people at a time, though as many as 70 are permitted, Mr. Damaso said. The building also has an outdoor children’s pool around the corner.
“You get the air, you get the sun,” he said. “It’s totally different from an indoor pool.”
On a recent day, Howard Somers, a retired engineer and seven-year resident of the Newbury, was sprawled on a blue reclining chair by the pool listening to music on headphones. “You don’t have to feel like you have to go somewhere else for shade cover, or salvation,” Mr. Somers said.
The Newbury has a one-bedroom for sale, No. 29J, for $559,000. It has parquet floors, a renovated galley kitchen and room for a dining-room table, and is listed by Robin Portnoy of the Corcoran Group. The building also charges pool dues of $360 per adult per season, with a maximum family cap of $1,085.
To keep pool parties in check and keep late-night cannonballs to a minimum, the building has a rule that each family member can bring only one guest at a time, and lifeguards close the area at 9 p.m.
Whether indoors or out, the pools in older buildings as well as in new construction capture the sensibility expressed by the original sales brochures for Gracie Towers, a 21-story co-op on the Upper East Side that opened in 1961.
In Jet-Age-cool language, the brochures boast of the escapist joys of the building’s 20-by-40-foot outdoor rooftop pool. “In short,” one reads, “a country club atmosphere for the satisfying pleasure of quiet relaxation, high above the city.”