Astoria Public Pool
The Astoria Public Pool was constructed in 1936 under the guidance of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who wanted to support recreation in the City of New York. It was at the time and still is the largest pool in New York City, extending an astounding 54,450 square feet. The Pool hosted tryouts for the U.S. Olympic Swimming and Diving Teams in 1936 and 1964. In the 1940s, a group of boys, calling themselves the Aqua-Zanies, got together and began putting on shows at the Pool for the enjoyment of the people that would gather there. The diving board for the pool was closed down in the 1970s after it became unsafe. Today, people from all over Astoria still gather at the pool and swim each summer.
Backstory and Context
The Astoria Public Pool was and still is the largest city pool in New York City. The Pool extends an astounding 54,450 square feet and has a capacity of about 3,000 people. The spot for the Pool was chosen by Robert Moses because it overlooked two bridges, the Hell Gate Bridge and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. These two bridges run over the East River, which can also be seen in the distance, providing a beautiful landscape to swimmers. The original plan for the Pool also included an Olympic sized diving board which towered over a smaller circular pool. Bleachers were built around the diving board to provide onlookers somewhere to sit as people put on diving and swimming spectacles.
The Astoria Public Pool has developed an interesting history since its construction. Not long after the Pool was completed, it was used for tryouts by the 1936 U.S. Olympic Diving and Swimming teams. It was used again for the same purpose in 1964. The Pool was also the birthplace of a diving show put on by a group that called themselves the "Aqua-Zanies." The Aqua-Zanies was a group of boys in the 1940s who used the diving board and pool to put on comedy performances that included acrobatic stunts. They would eventually start touring New York with their show.
Today, the Pool is still used to cool off the community of Astoria with thousands of people piling in each summer. The diving board, however, was closed down in the 1970s because of decay and neglect. The circular pool below the diving board will soon be turned into an outdoor plaza. The City of New York is also trying to raise funds to preserve the diving board itself as a monument to the history of the pool.
"Astoria Pool." NYC Parks. Accessed Web, 11/30/17. https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/astoria-park/highlights/8892.
Shattuck, Kathryn. "Big Chill of ’36: Show Celebrates Giant Depression-Era Pools That Cool New York." New York Times. 8/14/06. Accessed Web, 12/1/17. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/14/arts/design/14pool.html.