Sunset Park has one of the most beautiful, huge, delicious-looking pools ever. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but I don't think so.
That said, it's popular with lots of children, tweens, teens, and adults. That's a beautiful thing, of course, but it brings problems as well.
On a recent thread on Park Slope Parents, one parent asked about differences between the Red Hook Pool and the Sunset Pool. She mentioned that while it has a wonderful kiddie pool, the Red Hook Pool has many rules that seem "militant." (As another poster mentioned, all City pools have the same rules.) A follow-up poster wished for more militant enforcement of the rules at the Sunset Pool:
I went to the sunset park pool less than 2 weeks on a tuesday around 5pm and there was an organized incident where about 30 teenage boys started diving and jumping into the pool all at the same time, over and over. The life guards couldn't control them and two minutes later, police came out and shut down the pool--everyone had to leave. Thank goodness i happened to be in the middle of the pool with my two children when it started. When we came out, two of our towels were stolen. Now i have a bad taste in my mouth over sunset.*
*Used with author's permission.
Apparently, the sort of incident described has happened a few times (not just at the Sunset Pool) because the teens know that if one or two do running jumps into the pool (against the rules) they'll be thrown out. If a large group does it together, no one person gets in trouble. Of course, then the whole pool gets shut down and everyone's fun is ended. However, some teens (like some adults!) couldn't care less about other people's fun or safety. In another recent incident, a few teens were thrown out of the pool and proceeded to throw glass bottles into the pool area from outside the fence; no regard for other pool goers safety or fun was clearly demonstrated.
The best advice I can offer about the pools in general is to go early. The 11 AM - 3 PM session has far fewer problems than the late afternoon session. Also, I've heard from another parents that sticking close to the ramp area is "uncool" for the older kids, making it perfect for the littler ones.
In regards to towels being stolen, it stinks, and theft happens all the time. It's why the rules keep us from bringing much of anything into the pool area (or the locker area, for that matter!). Even the highest cost gyms have plenty of folks who help themselves to other people's stuff. May all towel thieves one day learn what it's like to have soaking wet kids and no towel with which to dry them.
An aside: Why oh why didn't they put in a kiddie pool instead of a sand volleyball court at the Sunset Pool? There are several areas around the park to play volleyball, but a kiddie pool would serve both the little ones and the older kids who want more space in the pool. This season, I have yet to see anyone utilize the sand volleyball court for something other than digging in the sand.