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Astoria Pool reopens after $19M renovation, Mayor Adams hails pool as City’s ‘luxury vacation’

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

June 28, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan

The city’s largest public pool officially opened for the season on Thursday morning, drawing hundreds of eager visitors eager to cool off on a hot day. 

The reopening of Astoria Pool, which was closed last season for a $19 million reconstruction project, was highly anticipated. An hour before pool-goers were welcomed in, Mayor Eric Adams was joined by members of his administration, Queens electeds and dozens of local residents who received an invitation. 

Astoria Pool was one of 50 pools across the city that opened on June 27, despite an ongoing lifeguard shortage that had left several beaches and pools understaffed last year. Officials remarked that the issue was less severe this year, thanks to successful negotiations with the Lifeguard Corps during the off-season.

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

“This is our French Riviera, this is our Bahamas. This is our luxury vacation,” said Mayor Adams at the reopening. “This reconstruction is really going to provide an entire summer of fun and activity to allow young people to create a lifetime of memories.”

But less than two hours after he departed, the lines of bathing suit-clad locals of all ages remained, as they were slowly let in by staff who checked personal items. As reported by Gothamist, visitors were only permitted to swim in two sections of the pool, as several lifeguard chairs remained empty. 

During earlier official remarks, NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said there were over 600 more lifeguards on staff than last year. But when a reporter asked her the number of lifeguards needed to prevent closed sections of pools and beaches, she evaded the question. 

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

But in recognizing the importance of pools as public infrastructure, she said, “These facilities are not just luxuries, they are necessities. For so many New Yorkers, it’s where they first learn how to swim.” 

Earlier this month, the city launched Let’s Swim NYC, an initiative that will infuse the city’s pools with  $1 billion over the course of five years. As the most significant investment in public pools in over 50 years, the funds will be used to build new pools and improve existing ones across the city.

In this off-season’s negotiations between the city and the DC37 labor union, which represents lifeguards, they reached an agreement to increase the hourly wage to $22 an hour. Returning lifeguards will also now receive a $1,000 retention bonus. 

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

“This year, NYC and our Lifeguard Corps have taken some big steps to make it easier to hire more lifeguards, improve lifeguard operations and help get more New Yorkers safely in the water,” said Kaitlyn Zheng, a senior lifeguard at Astoria Pool. “The new agreement represents a major win for public safety and the people of the city while maintaining our high standards.”

The mayor noted that negotiations regarding changing some rules, are still ongoing. He did not specify what kinds of rules, but said if changes were made, they would not jeopardize safety. 

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

“You can’t have a good pool without a good lifeguard. It was so important for us to really focus on how we address the issues of our lifeguard shortages. That’s why we’re doing everything in our power to hire more lifeguards,” said Adams, reinforcing that there were more lifeguards on staff this year than last. 

He also hailed the project for being completed on schedule, allowing water access to local residents and those who travel from other parts of this city to swim in the massive pool after missing out last season. 

“Construction in NYC is not for the faint of heart,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. She pointed out that the capital project, which modernized the water filtration and chemical system, was completed in a year. Improvements were also made to the pool deck, lighting and HVAC system. 

As the 2024 Summer Olympics will soon kick off in Paris, the officials recognized that Astoria Pool held Olympic trials on two separate occasions, in 1936 and 1964. The 88-year-old pool, which contains 1 million gallons of water, is actually larger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It was designated an official NYC landmark in 2006.

Photo: credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

And for some, the historic pool also had personal significance. City Council Member Tiffany Cabán, who represents Astoria and LIC, shared that the site was special to her own family. Her grandmother, who was a single mother and resided in the NYCHA Woodside houses, would often take her parents to Astoria Pool as children. 

“Vacations were not a thing. But what was a thing was Astoria Pool. They came here all the time. Some of their best memories were right here,” Cabán shared. 

This year’s pool-goers can expect free sunscreen dispensers and a concession stand with a range of snacks and beverages until the season ends on Sep. 8. 

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

The popular Learn to Swim program is also returning this year, but will not be offered at Astoria Pool. In Queens, the free classes for children and adults will be held at Fisher Pool in East Elmhurst or Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center. Registration is selected through an online lottery system. Those interested can sign up online starting on Friday, June 28.

One opening day attendee, Amelia Manning, said she planned to sign up her granddaughter for the free swimming lessons. She said that the 7-year-old, who was invited by her Girl Scout group, was so excited to visit the pool that she voluntarily woke up at 6 a.m. to make the trip from St. Albans

“I know that they haven’t got everything together. That’s okay because they got the pool ready,” Manning said. “And they got the swimming program. It’s important for the kids.”

Photo credit: NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

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