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Summer heat attracts scores at historic boro swim spot

Hundreds enjoy a sunny day with swimming in Astoria's famous pool. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Even though the scorching 100-degree heat that had characterized much of the past week had abated slightly, the Astoria Park Pool was full Friday afternoon.

Residents of the neighborhood and beyond swam in the water, ran through the sprinklers, or lay sunbathing on a beach towel at not only the biggest pool in the city, but also one of the most historic.

“We’re having a good time,” said Astoria resident Corrie Yadon, 30, who was baby-sitting a 6-year-old girl at the pool Friday. “We came all the way in — she comes from the West Village — all the way to the Astoria Pool because it’s the best pool in the city.”

Located in Astoria Park not far from 19th Street between 24th Avenue and 23rd Road, the pool was one of 11 built by legendary city planner and enthusiastic swimmer Robert Moses in the summer of 1936, the city Parks Department website said. The pool, which is 330 by 165 feet and between 3 and 4 feet deep, was built to conform to the standards of the Olympic games and hosted the finals of the Olympic swim tryouts upon its grand opening in 1936 and in 1964. It can hold up to 3,000 people and has served as the model for multiple pools across the world.

The pool sits in the shadow of the Robert F. Kennedy-Triborough Bridge, which was opened the same year in 1936.

Hundreds of residents flocked to the pool to beat the recent heat wave, which had at times brought temperatures of more than 100 degrees. Jamaica resident Jermaine Gibson, 29, who arrived with his 8-month-old son, Akil, said they try to come every Friday or Saturday.

“We’re from Belize, so we swim a lot,” Gibson said. “Swimming is big.”

An Olympic diving board and pool south of the main pool has been out of commission for years and is due to be converted into a performance space, but a play area with spray showers sits adjacent to the pool’s north side and remains a popular attraction for children and their parents.

“I like to run around and play,” said Edward Siguencia, a 7-year-old Astoria resident.

Others were enjoying the food at the Astoria Pool’s snack bar, which sells burgers, chicken breasts, drinks, ice cream and more.

“Kind of expensive at the concession stand, but the water’s free,” said Angel Torres, 30.

Torres was accompanied by his wife and 6-year-old son, who took classes at the pool in the morning. The pool holds swimming classes for young children as well as water aerobics for seniors.

“They get a big turnout of seniors on those days,” said Bob Najdek, 70, who has lived in Astoria all his life.

His wife, Mary Najdek, was sitting with her husband and other seniors on the west side bleachers which, unlike the bleachers on the east side, have blue and white cloth canopies. Mary Najdek said she wanted the pool to provide more shade.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

Others had few complaints.

“The lifeguards are cool. They’re nice,” said Atlanta resident Carlos Abriz, 34, who was on a visit to see his mother in Astoria. “The water is clean.”

The pool is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with an intermission from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. for cleaning. The season ends Sept. 3.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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