2017-07-12 / Front Page

Reopen Astoria Diving Pool

A copy of this letter was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette.    

November 7, 2016                                                                               
Hon. Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
It was an honor to meet you during your visit to Astoria Park on August 2 for Annual Night Out when we passed you our petition to reopen Astoria Diving Pool. You seemed to recognize and understand it as our most valuable asset. Thank you so much for your leadership and incredible generosity in allocating $30 million to Astoria Park via your Anchor Parks initiative. We are writing today to ask three things from you that no one else can provide:
• Demand the Parks Department reopen the Olympic Diving Pool as Mayor Bloomberg had planned for his initial 2012 Olympic Bid (article attached).
• Clarification regarding how the $30 million allocation for Astoria Park is to be used to avoid waste, including any restrictions, and degree of community input.
• Your signature, as Mayor, on the acceptance of placement of Astoria Park Pool and Play Center on the National Register of Historic Places to not only open up state and federal grants, but to become a national tourist destination. Placed for consideration on the registry by architect Giorgio Cavaglier, who helped saved Grand Central Station, (it) has been accepted awaiting final approval from the City of New York ( See enclosed).
The vote for repurposing the historic diving pool and paving over for an amphitheater space was met with a great deal of resistance years ago from residents and the Greater Astoria Historical Society for a number of reasons, including concerns about noise, traffic, and heat (see Queens Gazette article), as well as a desire in the community for the diving pool to be restored to its original function as a diving pool.  The pool was designed to maximize heat to kill bacteria, not suitable for fully dressed patrons and performers (see enclosed).  However, little of its history was widely known to the newer residents or CB1 board members when it was presented by Parks and the city as a “take it or leave it” proposition, stating that funds were not available to restore the diving pool, although, “it was agreed to preserve the basin, in case the pool could ever be restored in the future,” according to Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski’s recent letter to us.
Our original petition to restore the diving pool was met with open arms by Councilman Costa Constanides, who advised that the bidding did not go well for the amphitheater project on August 2.  That petition now includes over 1,000 handwritten signatures from individuals and groups. After you allocated the $30 million, the councilman’s office door closed to us, and the amphitheater/performance venue project budget increased from $1-3 million to $10 million on the City Council website, without any reference to reaching out to the community going forward on this matter. Although Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver started a plan for more outreach to residents and the public over a year ago, the Council and Parks seemed determined on forwarding previous agendas for which minimal outreach to residents occurred. The Parks Dept is supposed to act as steward and has neglected the diving pool for 36 years saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in operation and maintenance while sacrificing generations of children the benefits in one of NYC’s most vibrant communities. The participatory budgets are helpful, but squander money on less vital projects with no mention of major repairs needed which are not listed at the meetings.  Neither is past research being done, as many areas in the park were renovated within the past 15 years and the tennis courts twice in that span. Nor are impact studies before money is spent being done as was standard,  in some cases “breaking and fixing what is not broken and not fixing what needs to be fixed.”  We can elaborate on this in further detail either by meeting with you in person or however you deem fit. (See attached list.)
In response to our previous correspondence to Commissioner Silver, he referred Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski to us, who has been unresponsive to our questions regarding recent studies and costs, simply repeating previous unsubstantiated and inaccurate statements for which we were directed to file FOIL requests as she is now on vacation.
Although at the September 20, 2016 CB1 meeting, Chairman Risi said Astoria Diving Pool discussions would begin anew (See Gazette,) Commissioner Lewandowski is now claiming that the allocation is specifically earmarked in such a way as to prohibit its use for further restoration of the pools including the lighting, and leaking viewing terrace roof over the entrance to the pool.  Please advise if this is correct, or if the use of the funds can be applied to any projects (that) are in need of repair, especially the NYC landmarked pools at any upcoming meetings.

• With a little thinking outside the box, the locker rooms can once again be used year-round for a gallery where all the Olympians selected here will be remembered, and office space and visitor center.
• Harness the strongest current in the world under the Hell Gate to provide renewable energy for the whole park and perhaps a ferry to shuttle people to the fields on Randall’s Island to avoid overbuilding our only green space.
Recognized as “one of the most outstanding outdoor recreational aquatic facilities ever built in this country” Astoria Pool and Play Center still has the potential to be restored and preserved. It is also noted within the documents, “Juvenile crime dropped by 44% directly attributed to the WPA pools built by Robert Moses.” (See attached.)  Sadly, many of the WPA pools have been dismantled, and there are only three free public diving pools in NYC remaining.  
We are asking for your intervention and leadership in helping to save the historic diving pool for future generations before it is too late.
Help us preserve this magnificent art deco facility, not only for its aesthetic and architectural value, but also its historic significance to the three Olympic trials, FDR and Robert Moses’ WPA NYC landmarks and the forgotten Olympians created here in Astoria, NY while affording the opportunity to people of all classes and backgrounds to keep fit, learn the skill of diving and as an inspiration to our youth. Thank you for your time and attention in this important matter.
Respectfully yours,
Kathleen K. Springer, Director
Astoria Park and Aquatic Preservation (APAAP)
cc:  Commissioners M Silver, D Lewandowski, First Lady NYC, Chirlane McCray,
CB1 Chair Joe Risi, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz

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