Astoria Pool in the summer is of course a great place to swim and cool off on hot summer days but, on a winter’s day it holds for me another kind of attraction; shooting urban decay!
I stood on the upper deck of the promenade, a cold breeze blowing off the river, surveying the lonely, dry winter ravaged scene, creating abstracted images in my mind and then with my camera. Mounds of autumn’s leaves and other wind-blown debris were piled along the pool’s sides, tucked into steps and doorways. The diving pool, famous for hosting the 1936 and 1964 Olympic diving trials is now a ruin filled with dirty rain water, the diving boards cracked and crumbling, the ladders rusting and is the only section of the pool that no longer opens to the public during the summer.
The memories surfaced in my mind, as I took shots of the flat wide stairs that lead down to where my brother and I would join a chain of kids, queued up on either side of the entrance, with rolled up towels under our arms, anxiously waiting for the gates to open so we could race in and be the first in the water. The dirty pool floor, the closed concessions stands and the “kiddie” showers which, in my younger days during the winter months, the parks department filled with water and turned it into a mini ice skating rink. I abstracted the bend, twist and zigzag of the silver metal railing that surround the upper and lower decks, along with the badly repaired cracks. Green glass bricks, cracked and scratched still gleamed in the afternoon light and high atop its square columns are weed choked planters. The pool is enclosed by a graduating faded red brick wall topped with spiked rusted wrought iron fencing to keep pool-crashers from jumping the fence. I captured the pool in all its urban winter melancholy, inside and out, beautiful and not so beautiful.
As winter turns to spring the pool will be cleaned and swept, and maybe a fresh coat of sky blue paint applied to the bottom to make it ready for the summer crowds. But, this summer is special as July 4th Astoria Pool turns 80 years old and I hope that the good old City of New York can find, it in its heart and coffers, the where-with-all to renovate this incredible piece of local sports and family summer-fun history back to its original glory.