A Brief Look at Astoria Park
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Astoria Park sits alongside the East River on the west side of Astoria, Queens in New York City. Astoria is traditionally known for it's strong Greek culture (which it still has), but has undergone some gentrification in the last 10 years with an influx of people from across the United States and the world. The park sits at the edge of the neighborhood and provides a rare green refuge for people seeking some time away from the 120,000 other residents of Astoria.
The park was first built in 1913 after the City of New York purchased over 56 acres of land bordering the East River to use for a park. During this time, Astoria was predominantly Irish, Italian, Czech, and Slovak so it hadn't yet seen the large Greek influence which happened primarily during the 1960s. The public had a growing desire to be closer to the East River, but this presented some interesting challenges that would be seen throughout the park's history.
As soon as you step foot inside the park from any entrance you'll notice the centerpiece; a giant Olympic sized swimming pool. The pool, NYC's oldest and largest, was opened in the summer of 1936 by famed parks commissioner Robert Moses. Considered one of the finest pools in the country, the U.S. Olympic swimming teams used the pool for qualifying trials in 1936 and 1964. Though it's currently free to the public, shortly after it's opening the city would charge 20¢/10¢ for adults and children to swim, respectively.
After the pool, the second thing you'll notice is the park is sandwiched between two bridges; the Tri-Borough Bridge (or RFK; depending how long you've lived in NY) and the Hell Gate Bridge. Though the Tri-Borough is the more notable of the two; the Hell Gate Bridge and channel may have a more interesting history. The Hell Gate channel borders the west side of the park and contains some of the deepest and most treacherous water in New York Harbor. In the early days of NYC, many ships would capsize or run aground trying to navigate it's waters. A notable incident included the HMS Hussar which sunk to the bottom of the channel in 1780. It's rumored that the ship was carrying $2 to $4 million in gold which now lays unclaimed off the coast of Astoria Park. Gothamist has a great article which goes "deeper" into the history of the channel.
Aside from the obvious landmarks in the park, you'll also find a playground, dog park, 1/4 mile track, bocce court, soccer fields and even a skate park. All of which were added sporadically throughout the parks history. More information about all the park's offerings can be found on the NYC Park's website.
Year round, parkgoers will frequently show off their rides (both old and new) by the water.
Often overlooked by other boroughs, Astoria Park offers a rich history and provides a wide range of activities to the diverse Astoria's population. Not to mention, a fantastic view of the Tri-Borough Bridge and upper Manhattan.