NYC Resources311Office of the Mayor

Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Astoria Park

Astoria Pool

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

For outdoor pool details, including hours and rules, please visit our Free Outdoor Pools page.

Astoria Park has one of the largest and most popular swimming facilities in the country, with a main pool and diving pool that meet Olympic standards, as well as a wading pool. At 330 feet in length, the main pool is the largest in New York City. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, an avid swimmer himself, recognized the importance of aquatic recreation and launched a campaign to open eleven new pools throughout the city during the summer of 1936. The labor and construction came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), whose administrator Harry Hopkins described the pool in Queens as, “The finest in the world.” Astoria Pool was a model for the other ten pools. It has been said that Moses intended it to be the grandest of the new pools because it had the best view of the Triborough Bridge, which was completed in the same year.

Perhaps the most exciting events in the history of Astoria Pool were the Olympic Trials for the U.S. Swim and Diving Teams. The pool’s grand opening was July 4, 1936, and it was on this day that the finals of the Olympic swim tryouts began. This remarkable contest returned to Astoria in 1964. The two fountains located on the east end of the pool (which now spray water twenty-five feet in the air) served as Olympic torches which burned throughout the events in 1936 and 1964. The diving pool has a 32-foot elevated platform, built to conform to Olympic standards.

Astoria Pool has always been a favorite in the neighborhood, inviting community involvement in creating pool events. In the early 1940s, a group of boys in the neighborhood who were devoted swimmers got together to perform on Wednesday nights at Astoria Pool. The Aquazanies wore costumes and treated audiences to choreographed swimming acts with music, backdrops, props, and on occasion, even dogs. Their routines were always inventive and never failed to showcase their unique talent as swimmers and divers. One of the participants was Whitney Hart, who became a professional diver and was eventually inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame.

The exemplary design of the pool complex remains largely unchanged. The main pool was planned to hold 3000 people; underwater lighting, considered a “revolutionary development in recreation,” encouraged night swimming. Flanking the pool, bleachers stand atop both the Art Deco bathing pavilion (with facilities for 6200 swimmers) and the water filtration house. The 1997 restoration of the pool effected mild aesthetic changes such as new cement, lights, pumps, pipes, electric lines, filters, showers, and improved chlorination and security systems. The eleven WPA pools built in 1936 were symbolic of a city that cared about its people; ten remain community treasures today.

Directions to Astoria Park

Know Before You Go

BathroomsAstoria Park (Charybdis Playground)

The bathroom at Charybdis Playground is closed due to construction on the sewer line.

Was this information helpful?