Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Astoria Pool diving board: Asset or eyesore?


From the NY Times:

Astoria, Queens, is about to get its first outdoor amphitheater, situated where an Art Deco diving pool, built in the 1930s, fell into disuse decades ago. Plans call for filling the pool, at Astoria Park, with concrete to make way for the performance space, but the pool complex has been declared a landmark, a designation that means any changes would require a review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Accordingly, there are a few things that probably will not change: namely, the triple-tiered Bauhaus-style diving board.

That will most likely remain, smack in the middle of downstage, posing quite a challenge to set designers.

Dorothy Lewandowski, the Queens parks commissioner, said demolishing the diving board was never considered. “We’re not looking to create a Lincoln Center; we’re paying tribute to what was once there before, and create a new adaptive use,” she said.

Not everyone sees it that way. “Having a diving board facing the majority of your audience in a center stage position is untenable,” said Melanie Joseph, the founding and artistic director of the Foundry Theater, who has staged performances in such unconventional settings as a tour bus. “The strongest place onstage is center stage, and you don’t have that as a playing area,” she said.

In theory, the Landmarks Preservation Commission could still approve a plan to remove the diving board, if one were submitted, said Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the commission.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

it certainly is not an eyesore. in 1949,100 lbs .ago, i used to do swans,forward and back jackknives and single flips off of the lowest (3) level.
looking at it now ,it could be 25-30'. WOW, if youth only knew and old age only could...

thank god , the second and first level was closed off. we might have damaged ourselves.

Joe said...

If they are doing a theater this structure is perfect for lighting & FOH sound consoles as well as some mini trooper follow spots.
A smart idea would be to put a roof over it and install some XLR audio snake & electric.

It could even be used to house a projector for movies, it the perfect height.
A small FOH booth for bands is going in at Cityfield to help the Mets sell tickets.
The first after game band is Cheap Trick with Rick Neilsons son Dax on drums. I have the techical rider right here
-Joe

Anonymous said...

Somehow the city will screw this one up too.

Anonymous said...

The diving platform is a piece of Queens history worth preserving.

As for the sentiments of one artistic director, well, I would have thought that a truly creative person would see this as a challenge and rise to the occasion.

In the arts, isn't it often the case that obstacles and limitations can be viewed as opportunities to be resourceful and can inspire brilliant solutions that transcend what was initially viewed as a problem?

Would film noir of the 40's have been as beautiful to look at if they could afford color stock and processing?

Weren't some of the no-budget staging solutions employed in Urinetown not only admirable but a pleasure to watch if only for their simplicity?

How about the bare bones revival of Sweeney Todd where the actors played many of the instruments? Wasn't that a revelation?

In the creative world there are usually two ways to go. You can either find ways to make things work given what you have to work with or you can be a diva. It's your choice.

Anonymous said...

I used to jump not dive off the lower platform. It's how I became confident in know I could swim - the water was 16 Ft I believe.

This is a great venue and there is little reason not to think that this would not work as a performing venue, it could be and it will be wildly successful. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful sites in Queens, with the shoreline so close by and the park magnificent between the towering bridges.

Anonymous said...

Making the Vallone Arts Center is the real purpose here -

its blocks away from public transportation, subject to the wonderful sewer smells from the Bowery Bay sewage plant that the community swears does not exist (and made a farce out of July 4 a few years back) and the ever present punks that have their own
concerts along shore road.

But since the Vallones wants to shoehorn 20,000 more people in the the Astoria peninsula they will need SOME amenities to make that hair brained scheme tenable.

A money pit if there ever was one.

Vantage Properties said...

We would certainly agree that the diving board is a great piece of Queens history. We would be very interested in seeing performing artists in the space as well. Hopefully there is a compromise to make everyone happy.

Anonymous said...

Somehow the city will screw this one up too.
----

Well, doesn't the article rather (politely) say that?

But in that fair part of the city you are in the 'Vallone Zone' where the fantasy is real and the real is only seen when one of the local politicians run for office outside the district.

Go to Peter's Facebook page and read line after line of oozing saccharine comments from the locals.

Anonymous said...

Two words: mosh pit

spy VS SPY said...

Myth
The diving platform is a piece of Queens history worth preserving.


REALITY
JUST BECAUSE THEY TALK ABOUT THE DIVING BOARD DOESN'T MAKE THAT THE SOLE ISSUE - THIS IS A TRAIN WRECK HARDLY WORTH MILLIONS OF PUBLIC FUNDING - NO TRANSPORTATION, NO MAJOR CULTURAL DESTINATIONS (UNLESS YOU CONSIDER TONY BENNETT AS HIGH CULTURE), THE LOCAL MARKET, SMELLS, NOISE, ETC.

Myth
As for the sentiments of one artistic director, well, I would have thought that a truly creative person would see this as a challenge and rise to the occasion.

REALITY
WHY? TO SATISFY THE WHIM OF POLITICIANS? WHILE THE SAME STARVES AND THREATENS TO CUT FUNDING FOR OTHER WORTHY CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS AROUND THE CITY - AS THEY LAVISH MILLIONS ON TAX BREAKS TO DEVELOPERS?

Myth
In the arts, isn't it often the case that obstacles and limitations can be viewed as opportunities to be resourceful and can inspire brilliant solutions that transcend what was initially viewed as a problem?

REALITY
YES, HAVING A DEVELOPER ON THE BOARD TO CHANNEL THE ORGANIZATION INTO THE DIRECTION THAT FITS THE MAYORS 2030 PLAN SEEMS TO BE THE LATEST FASHION IN THE CULTURAL SCENE.

Myth
Would film noir of the 40's have been as beautiful to look at if they could afford color stock and processing?

REALTY
HAVING BOUGHT A BOOK ON 40S FILM NOIR FOR XMAS I WAS SURPRISED AT HOW MANY WERE HAMMY 'B' MOVIES. JUST LIKE 'QUEENS LOGIC' AND 'A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS' AND 'HELL GATE' ETC. BUT THEN AGAIN, IF TONY BENNETT IS YOUR IDEA OF HIGH CULTURE ....

Myth
Weren't some of the no-budget staging solutions employed in Urinetown not only admirable but a pleasure to watch if only for their simplicity?

REALTY
UNINETOWN - HMMMM!!! YES, DOWN WIND FROM TWO MAJOR SEWAGE PLANTS.

Myth
How about the bare bones revival of Sweeney Todd where the actors played many of the instruments? Wasn't that a revelation?

REALITY
WE HAVE A REVELATION .... YOU ARE NOT PART OF THIS DEAL, EH?

Myth
In the creative world there are usually two ways to go. You can either find ways to make things work given what you have to work with or you can be a diva. It's your choice.

REALITY
IF YOU WERE IN THE CREATIVE WORLD YOU CRINGE AT ANY EVENT FEATURING A LOCAL POL SINGING...

Anonymous said...

Vantage Properties is in favor.

There ya go!

Anonymous said...

Use it as a gallows. Charge big bucks to watch in the round the condemned jerk and wing from the yardarm. Popcorn anyone?

Joe said...

"Somehow the city will screw this one up too"
-------------
Yep...They already did.
The experts are building the stage below and front of the diving tower instead of the other side of the pool.
What these morons SHOULD have done is gravel fill the pool in to make a level (with dranage traps) and have the diving platfor serve as a sound, lighting and production tower.
You can bring in better shows at less cost this way.

-Joe

Anonymous said...

Reopen the pool................the illegals need a place to wash and drink beer!

Anonymous said...

Myth

Using ALL CAPS makes people believe what you write.

REALITY

A truly creative person doesn't turn his/her nose up at Tony Bennett. So what if he's not your thing (not mine either, to be honest). It doesn't mean the music has no value whatsoever. And what's it got to do with the original comment?

That comment had only to do with the saving of a piece of historic architecture - not the deal behind it and not Tony Bennett.

Ug...trolls are so 2005...

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how all of our Queens landmarks get destroyed by special interests from people who were not born and raised in our neighborhoods.

My father & uncles were lifeguards at this pool and I and my siblings all learned to swim & dive here. It has been the ultimate travesty to have had this landmark lay to waste by the the likes of Vallone, Marshall & the rest of the 'Queens Elites' for the last 25 years. All we have ever heard was that there was no money to keep this going. But my real estate taxes go up every year without fail and none of it goes to the neighborhood. It goes to new trees for Queens West and tax abatements for 'luxury condos' that are less than half occupied in Astoria and Long Island City, apartments that no native New Yorker can afford but seem to be appealing to Ivy League Finance transplants that the only care in the world they have is how to rip off more of everyone's 401K & Pension Plans and destroy the economy even more than they have already done so.

Let's stop the bull right here and now, the 'community' that is pushing to overturn landmark status of this diving pool and turn to this historic site into a theater are a few transplanted theater 'aficionados' from Michigan or wherever they just moved from in the last 2 years, with tons of money that think by paying off the local politicians for their own gain is the ethical thing to do.

No it is not. This type of criminal business as usual in Queens has gotten most people here disgusted and I for one find this appalling and wish to heaven SOMEONE would run against these local gangsters that think they can get away with anything they feel like with our taxes.

How about cleaning out sewers Vallone, so our basements don't flood? Your office has only been inundated by complaints for the last 15 years now, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE PROBLEM! How about adding some police to the neighborhood so Bif & Jody coming off the N train at 2am oblivious to the crime here now because of their numbing iPhones are not mugged and raped?

How about FINALLY cracking down on the absentee landlord abuse of code violations for the last 15 years that have converted their houses illegally into frat houses and paved up their sewers and backyards and front yards so the rest of us flood?

HOW ABOUT PROTECTING THE INTERESTS OF US TAXPAPERS? IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR?

Turn the pool BACK to a pool. Stop your nonsense already.

Anonymous said...

Note that there are no detailed pictures only spin.

What is the seating?

What will happen to the pool - will they close it at night?

The people from the old part of Astoria and the projects use it - but I guess in the rush the develop and displace they are toast.

The point is that the Taminent Club is getting old and pretty much bankrupt with new ideas.

They want to entice the 'Two Coves Crowd' into their tent.

Anonymous said...

I will laugh my ass off when the start holding concerts for the new immigrants or the good folks at the projects.

Can you see 1000s steaming through the park after an event.

The Tony Bennett crowd that lives around the park will go apeshit.

Anonymous said...

Amtrack rumbling overhead blaring horns is fine for Sousa - a farce for Shakespeare.

Anonymous said...

keep the pool operating. the U.S. Olympic team just might be rewarded, in the future, with gold medal winners who got their experience at this diving and swimming pool.

the teams from China/COM excel at this sport. so could the Chinese /American athletes from Queens County,U.S.A.

99% ? said...

I really do think that a broader dialogue is needed here.

Should the cultural organizations in Queens be supported?

Without a doubt.

But outside of a handful of very big ones that eat up almost all the cultural budget, local groups get support at a level that would be unacceptable in more forward thinking places like Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Its obvious from the comments here and within the community, that without time for broader input and more voices from diverse perspectives, this proposal, as it stands, is a trainwreck waiting to happen.

The days in which a Bloomberg official gets together with a local politician, offer a few peaks to carefully selected test group, then to boldly announce that “the community is for ‘X' “ … is rapidly drawing to a close … even in Astoria.

The proposal: the skinny.

This location has too many obvious negatives (including costs) and the general public has too little detailed information or time permitted to discuss it to make any kind of thoughtful decision.

Other groups brought in for ideas?

Would swim teams be interested in using it a diving training center? Could we have international diving competitions off this platform? Skateboard competition?

For heaven’s sake, this is New York.

You could have scores of ideas that never crossed the mind of Peter Jr.

It is possible you know.

Other local performance space:

1. The lawn regularly used by the concerts is a fantastic location. The space is larger by a factor of ten regularly holding many thousands for events. Everyone loves it.

The reason for that location's success?

In many aspects its similar in layout to the ancient Greek theater. All the elements are there: theatron, skene, orchestra.

2. Or, for a fraction of the cost, build a simple band shell at the foot – an amenity the park once had – and something many locals look back with fond regard. Some landscaping for the hill for seating and you have a beautiful greenspace at the fraction of the cost.

And yes, consumes a faction of the cement.

The bottom line: it will get built.

Joe said...

"1000s steaming through the park after an event"

On hot summer nights back in the 70s. we used hop the fence with our girlfriends and swim In that pool.
It was picth black and there would be 100s (sometimes near 1000 people smokin pot, playing guitars, girls 1/2skinny dipping everwhere. What a party !!

The cops did nothing unless someone was being a real problem.
--There never was from what I remember. It was self policed

-Joe

Anonymous said...

"The bottom line: it will get built."

- NOT.

Anonymous said...

If you are to believe the postings on local blogs the park at night is very different today.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of people in the community that think this is stupid and a waste of millions of dollars and ultimately is untenable in the long run,

but there is an unwritten law in Queens that a city councilman can pretty much treat his district his playpen, his constituents as surfs, and no one will intervene.

One of the evils of machine politics.

Petros Georgiadis said...

I think this is a great idea. However, the parking lot under the bridge at the park needs to go. I think it is a bit of a contradiction that people need to drive and park in order to jog outdoors at the track. So much can be done with the parking lot. Such as a seasonal ice skating rink. Astoria park is only utilized during the summer months. Throughout the winter, there is no activity aside from sledding and snowman building, that is why I think an ice skating rink would be ideal