Astoria Park is a 59.96-acre public park in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens in New York City. The park is situated on the eastern shore of the Hell Gate, a strait of the East River, between Ditmars Boulevard to the north and Hoyt Avenue to the south. The Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy) and Hell Gate Bridges respectively pass over the park's southern and northern sections. Astoria Park contains a playground, a soccer field, a running track, a skate park, and courts for tennis, basketball, and bocce. Astoria Park also includes the Astoria Play Center, which consists of a recreation center and a pool. The park and play center are maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks).
The Hell Gate Bridge, carrying Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and the New York Connecting Railroad, crosses over the northern section. The park is separated from the Hell Gate and the East River by a 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) road called Shore Boulevard.
Astoria Park is crossed by numerous paths, of which some are paved in hexagonal blocks, while others contain asphalt paving. Several paths are built on slopes and contain staggered steps. Several entrances are spaced around the perimeter of the park.
In the western portion of the park, along Shore Boulevard, is a memorial dedicated to World War I victims. There is also a plaque commemorating the PS General Slocum, which caught fire and sunk in the Hell Gate in 1904, killing over a thousand people.
Recreational facilities are concentrated in the southern two-thirds of the park, south of 23rd Avenue. The southernmost portion of Astoria Park, at 18th Street and Astoria Park South, contains a 0.25-mile running track, which surrounds a soccer field. East of the running track are fourteen tennis courts and a restroom. The tennis court area protrudes slightly under the Triborough Bridge. A "tennis landscape" separates the tennis courts from the street. There is a parking lot just north of the running track, underneath the Triborough Bridge and at the western end of Hoyt Avenue North. Also underneath the bridge, west of the parking lot, is a 21,500-square-foot skate park.
The central portion of the park contains the Astoria Pool and Play Center. There are also basketball courts southwest of the pool area, as well as bocce courts and Charybdis Playground north of the pool area. Charybdis Playground sits opposite the Hell Gate from Scylla Point on Wards Island. The two features are named after Scylla and Charybdis, two water hazards described in Homer's Odyssey, and refer to the dangerous whirlpools in the waters of the Hell Gate.
Astoria Park contains an enclosed elliptical pool area that is aligned north-south, with two pools (formerly three). The main pool is rectangular and measures 330 by 165 feet, with a depth of 4 feet and a surface area of 54,450 square feet. It was the largest of 11 pools in New York City that were completed by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. At its peak, the pool area was able to fit 6,200 swimmers, and the main pool alone had a capacity of 5,570. The pools hosted swimming trials for three Summer Olympic Games in 1936, 1952, and 1964.
The main pool is flanked by two semicircular pools, each with a 165-foot diameter. The wading pool is north of the main pool and is surrounded by spray spouts. The diving pool to the south was drained and fenced off in the 1980s, and was totally infilled between 2017 and 2019. The still-extant diving board measures 32 feet tall, with three platforms cantilevered over each other. The diving board, described by Architectural Record as "an example of design for function," allowed four contestants to dive simultaneously: one each from the top and bottom, and two from the middle.
The deck surrounding the pools is made of cement. The deck is surrounded by concrete bleachers and enclosed by a brick perimeter wall topped by a wrought iron fence. There is also a filter house on the western side of the pool area. The filter house contains a balcony that is raised one story above the pool deck and two stories above a plaza to the west. The filter house's balcony has a roof that is designed like a saucer.
In 2016, $30 million was allocated for further improvements to the park's recreational facilities as part of the city's Anchor Parks program. A three-phase renovation of Astoria Park commenced in 2018 as part of the Anchor Parks program The first phase, which involved rebuilding the track and other facilities in the southern portion of the park for $13.65 million, was completed in October 2019. The second phase, which includes rebuilding the wading pool and Charybdis Playground for $12.5 million, was completed in September 2021, following a temporary opening and re-closure that July. The third phase includes landscaping in the park's northern section for $4–5 million.
The Hell Gate Bridge
The Hell Gate Bridge, originally the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge or the East River Arch Bridge, is a 1,017-foot steel through arch railroad bridge in New York City. Originally built for four tracks, the bridge currently carries two tracks of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and one freight track across the Hell Gate, a strait of the East River, between Astoria in Queens and Randalls and Wards Islands in Manhattan.
The arch across the Hell Gate is the largest of three bridges that form the Hell Gate railroad viaduct. An inverted bowstring truss bridge with four 300-foot spans crosses the Little Hell Gate, a former strait that is now filled in, and a 350-foot fixed truss bridge crosses the Bronx Kill, a strait now narrowed by fill. Together with approaches, the bridges are more than 17,000 feet (3.2 mi) long. The designs of the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, England and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in New South Wales, Australia were derived from the Hell Gate Bridge.
The bridge and structure are owned by Amtrak and lies in the New York Terminal District, part of its Boston to Washington, D.C. electrified main line known as the Northeast Corridor. The bridge's two western tracks are part of the Hell Gate Line and are electrified with 12.5 kV 60 Hz overhead power and are used by Amtrak for Acela Express and Northeast Regional service between New York and Boston. In September 2009, the Metro-North Railroad's Train to the Game services, operated by New Jersey Transit from key stations on the New Haven Line to Secaucus Junction, started using the bridge during every Sunday Giants or Jets NFL game at MetLife Stadium. However, this service was suspended in 2017.
The bridge is also part of the New York Connecting Railroad, a rail line that links New York City and Long Island to the North American mainland. The third track forms part of the CSX Fremont Secondary and carries CSX, Canadian Pacific and Providence & Worcester Railroad freight trains between Oak Point Yard in the Bronx and Fresh Pond Yard in Queens, where it connects with the New York and Atlantic Railway.
In September 2009, Metro-North revived its planning efforts for its Penn Station Access project, which would use the Hell Gate Bridge to connect the New Haven Line to Penn Station. Such a service would terminate at Penn Station on platforms freed up by the planned completion of the Long Island Rail Road's East Side Access tunnel to Grand Central Terminal, which is scheduled for completion in late 2022. If the plan is implemented, through-running between the New Haven Line and New Jersey Transit would be possible, linking business centers in Connecticut and New Jersey while providing access to Newark Liberty International Airport. The draft Environmental Assessment was originally expected to be available for public review in late 2018. Subsequently, in January 2019, it was announced that Amtrak and the MTA had reached an agreement regarding track usage rights, and $35 million was approved for initial engineering design work. The MTA was expected to begin service on the line by 2023. This was later delayed to 2027.
J.M. Gemina looks out at the East River in a still from his documentary The Nature of Reality.