March 27, 2024

Princeton University Should Rethink Decision to Close Nassau Swim Club

To the Editor:

Shame on Princeton University. For more than 50 years, Nassau Swim Club has provided Princeton-area residents, Institute for Advanced Study faculty and staff and the University community with a diverse, peaceful, sylvan escape from the heat and hustle and bustle of a New Jersey summer. Nassau, too, provides local kids, exercise, activity, and community engagement unparalleled in today’s screen-centric culture.

In October the University informed the Nassau Swim Club Board of Directors that Princeton would terminate the club’s lease in April 2024. The University, which owns the land on which the pool sits cited the pool’s failure to pay taxes owed as the reason for the closure.

Over the past decade the pool has struggled to meet its financial obligations. Dwindling membership thanks to a range of factors has hit Nassau particularly hard. Membership is the pool’s main source of income and, therefore, a decline in that key area inevitably negatively impacted the club’s finances. The University, for years, looked the other way as Nassau was unable to turn a profit and pay its taxes.

It was a shock, then, that Princeton suddenly has decided to close the pool, especially since they informed the board that they have no immediate plans for the site [“Nassau Swim Club Lease Terminated,” February 21, page 1]. Since receiving the letter the Nassau board undertook negotiations to find a way to stay open, remain viable, and increase membership. Crucially, the board tried to enlist the University. Sadly, efforts to convince Princeton that Nassau is more of an asset than a liability fell on deaf ears.  

Princeton’s talk of diversity and inclusion; its concern over student, staff, and faculty physical and mental health; and its efforts at community building appear as mere lip service in the face of this closure. Nassau ticks all of these boxes. The pool could be promoted to the University population as a place of solace in troubled times, as an incredibly diverse, close-knit blend of people (on any given day countless languages are being spoken at Nassau), and as a place where a warm, welcoming community is already built.

At a recent public forum, President Eisgruber spoke of the importance of these initiatives, yet when faced with an actual place that fulfills these needs, he sees only the bottom line. And the almighty dollar wins the day.

Richard Bolster
Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville