ASTORIA — City officials are vying for a grant to restore the crumbling Olympic-sized high dive that has towered above Astoria Park since the pool opened, but hasn't been used in decades.
The Parks Department is competing for a "Partners in Preservation" grant to fund its grand plan to restore the diving platform, built in 1936 by Robert Moses, as the centerpiece of the pool's new music and arts performance center.
The public pool — the city's largest — has remained open, but the 32-foot diving platform closed decades ago and has been deteriorating ever since.
Fans of the park are being asked to cast their votes online for the project, one of 40 competing for a $250,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.
"We are looking for the votes, and we want to make Astoria Pool the most popular place in New York City," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "You can vote until May 21, once a day, like a vitamin."
To promote voting and offer a preview of the types of activities that will be held at the performance center, the Parks Department organized a Music & Arts Festival in Astoria Park Saturday afternoon. There will be children's activities along with theater performances and live music — including a show featuring Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who is set to play bass with a local Greek hard-rock band.
The Astoria Pool project faces stiff competition from 39 other New York City landmarks, including the Guggenheim Museum and the Apollo Theatre. Three winners will be chosen based on the number of votes cast by the public at the Partners in Preservation website or its Facebook page.
The Parks Department already has $1 million locked in toward the construction of a performance stage in the existing diving-pool area and the creation of a canopy over the site’s bleachers.
Astoria Park’s main pool, a popular summer destination for Queens residents, attracts more than 100,000 visitors each season, according to NYC Parks. Officials hope the performance center will draw even more visitors.
Vallone, who last year allocated the $1 million toward converting the public performance space, said the diving platform could have unlimited use in art productions.
"It’s going to be cool,” said Vallone, adding that the theater will be nestled between the Hell Gate and Triborough bridges, overlooking the East River, with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
"It will evoke theaters of ancient Greece and Rome."
Vallone, who grew up in Astoria and has witnessed the deterioration of the diving pool, said he is planning to set aside even more money for the park — possibly as much as $1 million. The money would fund other improvements in the park, including turning the old locker room area into a café-style concession, he said.
The performance-space project, currently at the design stage, is expected to take another 18 months to complete, officials said.