Samantha Rosenthal, 7, of Merrick, cools off at MECA Pool...

Samantha Rosenthal, 7, of Merrick, cools off at MECA Pool Club in Merrick, with dad Michael Rosenthal. Credit: Danielle Silverman

A hidden gem.

That’s what Lauren Rosenthal, 36, a teacher from Merrick, calls MECA, the pool club she belongs to in Merrick. She relaxes on a lounge chair with a beautiful view of the adjacent bay while her daughter, Samantha, 7, plays with friends in the children’s pool or larger pool. “I get to enjoy the luxury of having a pool but not have to take care of it or maintain it,” Rosenthal says.

Echoes Shari Gish, 43, a teacher’s aide from Merrick at the club with her younger son, Tyler, 7, one July weekday: “You can’t get this in your backyard. He’s playing with eight of his friends and I’m not entertaining. I don’t have to clean up. And I get time with my friends. It’s a win-win for us all.”

Pool clubs are just what they sound like: places where members share the expense and the enjoyment of swimming pools. They’re a different breed than cabana clubs on the beach or yacht clubs catering to boaters, though some may offer the ability to dock a boat for an additional fee. And they’re different from town pools because they aren’t open to the public, which gives parents added peace of mind because the pool area isn't filled with random guests, members say. The clubs typically also offer members activities such as movie nights, holiday celebrations and talent shows. They may have ping-pong tables, sand volleyball courts or even a tiki bar and restaurant.

Camaraderie, community

“For parents of young kids especially, it’s the safety and security of knowing your kids can come here with no strangers,” says Jennifer Saltzman, a speech pathologist and steering committee member at MECA, which currently has about 70 member families. “You really get to know every family coming in and out.” Adds her husband, Jay, a special-ed teacher: “It’s not exclusive, but it’s private.”

Some pool clubs limit their memberships to people who live within prescribed boundaries. However others, such as the Green Harbour Beach Club in Massapequa, the Long Island Yacht Club in Babylon and MECA – which stands for the Merrick Estates Civic Association -- allow anybody to join for a seasonal fee. Costs range from $1,195 per family to more than $2,000 for Memorial Day through Labor Day, depending on the club.

Joseph Serpa, 4, of West Babylon, jumps into the pool with...

Joseph Serpa, 4, of West Babylon, jumps into the pool with his grandfather, Brian Richmond, at the Long Island Yacht Club in South Babylon Credit: Linda Rosier

“It’s just so easy,” says Kelly Becker, 45, a stay-at-home mom from Babylon, who is at the Long Island Yacht Club with her twins Bailey and Jeremy.

‘Hokey fun’

The Duignan family of Massapequa Park joined Massapequa’s Green Harbour Beach Club about nine years ago. While Jim Duignan, 54, a production supervisor for a pharmaceutical company, barbecues lunch for his wife, Valerie, 53, and daughter, Tori, 18, on the club’s outdoor grill, he explains that joining enabled him to be assured his only child would always have someone to play with on summer days.

Tori is sunning herself nearby on the club’s sandy bayfront with friend Julia Cowan, 14, of Massapequa Park. “We were members when I was really little and now all of my best friends are here,” Tori says. Adds Cowan, a rising 10th grader: “Our summers are based around the beach club. We turn into lifeguards as we get older.”

Tori Duignan, 18, left, and Julia Cowan, 14, both of...

Tori Duignan, 18, left, and Julia Cowan, 14, both of Massapequa Park, enjoy the pool at the Green Harbour Beach Club in Massapequa.  Credit: Newsday/Beth Whitehouse

Favorite club special events include the annual cannon ball contest among the dads, Camp Out when members pitch tents and sleep over, and the summer talent show, the Duignans say. “It’s hokey fun,” Jim Duignan says. “The worst part about this place is it makes the winters seem much, much longer. You can’t wait to get back.”

MECA (Merrick Estates Civic Association) Pool Club, 2935 Shore Dr., Merrick, 516-867-9605, $1,195 per family.

Long Island Yacht Club, 307 Little East Neck Rd. S, Babylon, 631-669-3270, $1,500 per family plus one-time $500 application fee.

Green Harbour Beach Club, 110 Riviera Dr. South, Massapequa, 516-798-9241 $2,100 per family plus one-time $1,700 initiation fee