Monday, September 10, 2012

A Song for Summer

Labor Day weekend unofficially marks the end of summer. In New York City, it also marks the last days the public pools are open. Two Saturdays ago, Maura and I made our first trek to the Astoria Pool for one last dip, sandwiched between a trip to the Noguchi Museum and a Greek feast. With apologies to our beloved Red Hook Pool--and of course the Wellington Family Aquatic Center--this is the most spectacular public pool I've ever seen. The largest in NYC, it sits between the Triborough Bridge (left side of photo) and the Hell Gate Bridge. Built with funds and labor coaxed by Robert Moses from the WPA in the 1930s, the pool was the cornerstone of and model for his master plan for the city's pools. Perhaps its reddest-letter day came on its very first, when it hosted the U.S. Olympic Swimming and Diving Trials... on the Fourth of July, 1936. As you can see in the photos, there is ample seating provided by the steps cascading down from the bathhouse and encircling the pool and diving well.

The diving well was long ago abandoned and overtaken by the inexorable march of nature. As a ruin, I find it quite compelling and would love to see it remain as an artifact of the city's history and Moses' age of empire. Unfortunately, local residents and politicians have recently proposed encasing the well with concrete for conversion into a concert venue. Would that it might fail.

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