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.