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Resident’s plea for the restoration of Astoria Park Diving Pool gets cool reception from Parks Dept.

Astoria Park Diving Pool–Photo Astoria Park Alliance Facebook

Sept. 14, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

The defunct diving pool in Astoria Park is back in the spotlight again.

In 2014 the Parks department announced that it would fill in the diving pool and create a performance space, but a local Astoria resident has started a petition to restore the diving pool to its former glory.

Kathleen Springer, raised in Astoria right near the pool, has put out an emotional plea to the city to halt the plans of filling in the diving pool and restore it, sharing photos of the pool in its prime, when it was used for the Olympic Trials in 1936 and 1964.

The Parks Department, however, maintains that the space will serve a much greater population for a much larger portion of the year if it is turned in to a public plaza.

“Parks is moving forward with the plan to create a plaza in place of the diving pool, which will give New Yorkers of all abilities increased access to this space within the park for a longer amount of time, and provide the community with a location to host events and programs,” said Meghan Lalor, a Parks Department spokesperson.

The diving pool was closed in the 1980s for liability and safety reasons, Lalor explained, and has sat dormant since.

In 2010, The Parks Department commissioned a master plan for the site “to assist in guiding design decisions in the future, and also to investigate restoration and adaptive reuse possibilities.”

The study of the diving pool concluded that “to reactivate the diving pool, a new water circulation pumps, water filtration, water treatment, and water distribution systems are required,” in addition to extensive structural repairs to the pool basin and the dive tower.

Using that information, Parks decided to proceed with the idea of creating an amphitheater where the old diving pool is now, though when bids for the project came back well over the budgeted $4.7 million in 2015, the department decided instead to fill in the pool and create a plaza area. Regardless of the use of the space, the plan includes the restoration of the historic 32-foot high dive tower to maintain and recognize the historical importance of the space.

Springer, however, said that the diving pool and its history are too important to pave over. She said she herself learned to dive in the pool, and has memories of riding over to the park on the handlebars of her mother’s bike to watch the opening gala for the 1964 Olympic Trials.

“The Art Deco style, the porcelain ceramics, the space has so much originality and is like stepping back in to time,” she said.

She added that she has collected a ballpark estimate of 500 to 600 signatures on her petition so far, often by standing outside the pool and asking those using it if they would prefer to have a performance space or restore the diving pool.

“I haven’t even gotten started,” she said, explaining that she has already contacted Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilman Costa Constantinides, Community Board 1, several Parks Department representatives, and anyone else she believes could make a difference to her cause.

The pool complex in Astoria Park opened in 1936 on the day of the first Olympic Trials held there, and was designed by legendary city planner Robert Moses.

Springer said that the diving pool is the “crown jewel” of Moses’ legacy, and the most “magnificent” pool he ever designed.

“It’s outrageous and we mourn every time we walk past the diving pool and see it empty, it’s an ache in our hearts,” she said.

But Old Astoria Neighborhood Association member Diane Kantzoglou who did not attend the community board meeting offered a different perspective on the matter.

“There are thousands of people that could be benefiting from the entertainment and cultural value of the space as a plaza, and basically the few people that would be using it as a pool,” she said.

Kantzoglou also said that OANA has gathered many letters from performers and community members in favor of the idea of a performance venue and plaza, citing reasons from cost to scope of use.

Lalor said that as of now the Parks Department plans to move forward with the plaza, in part due to the time, effort and money that has already gone in to the project, and also because it would benefit a greater number of people.

She said that a revised design for the plaza will be released this fall, and the project will likely move in to the procurement stage next spring.

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20 Comments

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Ali

Kathleen’s Letter to the Mayor was published in the Queens Gazette and she hand delivered it to the Mayor in Boro Hall to read after it sat on his desk for months. It made the Daily News when she handed it to him. It was a good letter..Do a search in the Gazette and see for yourself. The Olympic Astoria Diving Pool is national treasure and should be restored.

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Hee Hee

Given the way Kathleen writes in these comments, I would pay good, hard-earned money to read whatever she submitted to Mayor DeBlasio:

“Deer MrMeyer..billions of peeple dived around the EArth thes sumer n if u opn Astoria hidived backup agin thay will al vome to Sstoria to dove!!!Thsnkyou, love Kathleen..”

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Anonymous

I was born and raised in Astoria and spent millions. Of summers swimming at Astoria pool…I remember. When the diving was open…one day a boy dived into the pool and died..After that the pool closed and easy never to be open again….it would be better. Than a plaza to re open….we have enough people sitting around….

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Rick

I’m more upset with the fact that poor Kathleen’s phone and or computer seems to have failed miserably in such simple tasks as predictive text and/or even old school spell check. If such failure can still occur, how can we trust in any New World revamping of Old World ways?!?!

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toni

I rather they leave the diving pool alone! but if they don’t i say restore the diving pool and open it only in the summer. I don’t want the park pool turning into a concert area every other weekend full of people, trash and noise!

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Karen

Agree. Right now people stand in line with a lock and a towel with very little disturbance to the residents living across the Street. They could have put a retractable stage all these years, but parks kniws ot would disturb the residents which is why they want to lave it. No maintenance. Forget about the children, its all about the maintenance and a short sighted Queens parks commissioner who wanted to civer the tennis courts to let them be run privately to cut on maintenance, but the community was outtaged and nearly caused a riot. She needs to be replaced.Her deputy commisdioner was indibted 5 years ago for stealing $50 grand from parks funds.

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victory25

From what i seen, many people use the pool to swim and cool off in the summer. In fact, most are just looking for a place to relax and have fun. Many are young teens/adults and children that come from the area, other NYC neighborhoods and summer camp/school programs. Now for obvious reasons, diving boards can lead to many accidents. And although diving boards can certainly be entertaining, they also elevate stress levels for parents and supervisors/lifeguards, especially when there are many people involved. Hence, the diving pool area would have to be limited to a few adults at a time and many of the young Astoria pool users will not be allowed to use that area because it would be too dangerous and deep. I also think that the Parks Dept does not want to put the public at risk and the city would want to avoid law suits (this is 2016 not 1964). .As someone pointed out its a liability issue. In most cases, even home-owners insurance goes up with the addition of a diving board. The percentages vary depending on the policy, but that’s just the way it is. The cost of restoring the diving pool area back to its original glory would be money not spent wisely for the amount of people it will probably serve 2-3 months of the year. Its a public pool! BTW, on line petitions have small value; if you feel strongly about a matter attend the meetings.

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Karen

There was never any injuries or death ever in 5 decades if use by locals and 3 Olympic trials. The high dive platform was only open to professionals from the late 60s till it clised in 1980 because the city was in bankruptcy. Mayor Bloomberg was going to reopen it for the 2012 Olympic bid. After the bid failed they put 7 million into an indoor high dive in flushing meadows when we have the premier pool ever built in the country right here in Astoria. Tragic!

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Kathleen Springer

I know Diane Kontozaglou she was not at that meeting nor was she told it could ne ised for both with a retractable stage

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Kathleen Springer

It could also be used as a performance space by using a retractable stage cover or a platform or floating stage. The public was misinformed about the pools ability to be restored and the parks dept has no record of any incidents that caused thst pool to close. The diving pools were targeted all over the country because of budget cuts fearmongering was an easy way to sway public opinion, According to a NY times article. I have all the articles Hannah I wish you would have properly introduced youself. The pool used to be heated so they should restore the lights if they want a longer season. The pool had 160,000 visitors this year who would live to have the diving pool restored. It could be multi purpose and the parks commissioner said that’s why they have to leave the basin in case funds come to restore it in the future.

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Never Left Astoria

“Springer” – must be related to Jerry? Let’s be honest – does any true Astorian use Astoria Pool to swim?

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Kathleen K Springer

No im not related to jerry, nor do i have his money. 300 true Astoria’s residents whom i met on line at the pool somevof whom i gresmw up with signed the petition and the women who ran for councik on the green party ticket won an award for her laos as welk as the very weel known attorney whise iffice is on 42 st off 32 ave. Inly someone whi never used the pool would make such a comment and i bet you dont even kniw how to dive. A lot of rhe people come from Manhattan and thevouyer boroughs because its the kargest and cleanest pool in NYC. 160000 people visited the pool this year the long lines suggest the other pool should be reooened not paved over checj out thevoage on faceboik Save and Restore Astoria diving pool and look at the photos and videos of the diving then nake your comments

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Anonymous

You obviously are not a true Astorian but probably a transplant from Minnesota. If you were born and raised here you would react differently.

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Trish

I am a true ASTORIAN & my kids an myself use the pool daily! It’s beautiful! Before you knock it you should try it!!!! Sooooo many “true Astorians” use the pool! As well as new Astoria residents! This Summer there were so many new faces young and old alike it was great to see!!!

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Never Left Astoria

Kathleen – I was born and raised in Astoria hence “never left Astoria”. But you said it yourself “a lot of people come from Manhattan and other boroughs”. Why can’t we have something that is for the neighborhood?
PS – please use your spell check

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Karen

Open more pools. The parks dept clised PS10 pool abive Syeinway St and so many of the children are upset.

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