Tenafly Swim Club files for bankruptcy; latest Bergen County swim club in crisis

TENAFLY — The Tenafly Swim Club has filed for bankruptcy, managers at the club confirmed Monday afternoon.

It is the latest of a growing number of swim clubs having financial difficulties. The Bergenfield Swim Club filed for bankruptcy in September, and the Montvale, Dumont, Pascack Valley and Bogota swim clubs all are struggling.

The board of directors of the Tenafly Swim Club adopted a resolution on Dec. 7 to file a petition for bankruptcy. The club filed for Chapter 7 protection Dec. 14.

Hackensack-based attorney John Swyilok, who is representing the Tenafly club, did not return calls seeking comment, and Sabrina Kanofsky, president of the swim club, confirmed the bankruptcy filing but declined further comment.

At least 80 percent of swim clubs in the state today are facing a membership crisis, said Ray Roig, treasurer of the New Jersey Pool Manager’s Association.

“This is absolutely a trend,” Roig said. “We’ve gone from having 54 pool clubs to 45 in our association in about 10 years.”

A lot of clubs have been in the red as membership has declined, he said.

The New Milford Swim Club in 1989, for example, had a membership of 625 full-time families and 100 part-time families and a waiting list. Last year, the club’s membership dropped to some 350 families, with no part-time members or waiting list, Roig estimated.

He attributed the problems to many factors: “People don’t hesitate these days to put pools in their back yards. And there’s competition from fitness clubs. Joining a swim club can be expensive,” he said.

But there also are a lot of advantages, Roig said: “Swim clubs are invaluable for swim lessons and swim and dive teams, and socially they are wonderful.”

Founded in 1960, the Tenafly Swim Club is at 147 Grove St. and has a large heated pool for adults and a kiddie pool. It also recreational areas including a playground and basketball and volleyball courts.

“These clubs are dropping all over the county. Many town pools have closed,” said Mayor Peter Rustin. “For many years these clubs were thriving and full.”

The Tenafly Swim Club is on borough-owned property but is an independent, non-profit entity that does not report to the Borough Council, he said, adding he was unaware of its finances.

Rustin deferred comment Monday night to the borough attorney on the bankruptcy filing’s effect on its arrangement with the borough.

A second swim club, the Tenakill Swim Club, is next door to the Tenafly Swim Club, and several residents said there was much competition between the two.

Several residents whose names were on the members list of the Tenafly Swim Club said they haven’t gone in years because their children have grown and they have no friends left who go. They said they were concerned about getting their money back.

Marilyn Brown said she’s been a member there for about 15 years.

“I had an inkling that they were in trouble. I’m not pleased, because five years ago I asked for my [$500] bond back, and they said they can’t give me my money back, but they’d put me on a waiting list,” Brown said, adding that the club’s performance has been slipping: “The customer service wasn’t there. They didn’t market it well. It was like the regime not wanting to do anything.”

Shel Grossman, another longtime member who left the club years ago, said, “We asked for a bond back, and we’ve been waiting and waiting.”

If the club has no assets, none of the members will be able to get the money from their bonds returned to them.

As for why the club failed, Grossman said she’s not sure what happened, but added, “Most of our friends are no longer members there, and a lot of people whose kids are interested in swimming switched to the Tenakill Swim Club, which is next door.”

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