ITHACA, N.Y.—Lifeguards at the Alex Haley Municipal Pool arrived Thursday morning to find the pool filled with equipment from throughout the grounds, a messier scene than normal when trespassers stop by for an after-hours swim.

Lane lines, picnic tables, chairs, cones and more were all thrown into the pool overnight. But among the mess was a more sinister element: a racist hand-written note left on the lifeguards table.

Pool manager Max Johnson said it’s somewhat common for people to break into the pool after hours, even though it’s illegal and dangerous.

But Wednesday night was the most vandalism ever done to the pool that he has seen during his long tenure there, he said. He said he hadn’t seen the note and didn’t know what it said exactly, other than that it was a racist message and probably directed at GIAC’s social justice-oriented mission.

Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, the executive director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center that oversees the pool across the street, echoed that sentiment. She called the note “vile” and theorized that, considering the heft of some of the objects thrown into the pool, there was likely more than one perpetrator.

“It’s concerning, especially with everything going on around the country,” she said in an interview. This is certainly the first time something so threatening and direct has been left behind, she said.

Credit: Photo provided

McBean-Clairborne also said the incident had been reported to the Ithaca Police Department.

The pool attracts a fairly diverse group of swimmers, hosting dozens of kids and families per day during the hot summer months. It’s named after Alex Haley, the Ithaca-born author of the book “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at