DITMARS — An architect who made headlines last year for accusing Donald Trump of shorting him on a bill has joined a push to reopen the old diving pool in Astoria Park.
The Parks Department has planned for years to pave over the shuttered pool and turn it into a performance space, a proposal approved by Community Board 1 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2013.
But the plan has drawn criticism from some residents who would rather see the pool restored to its original use.
Andrew Tesoro, who runs the Manhattan firm Tesoro Architects, says he's come up with a design for the space that would keep it functional all year-round. He submitted it to the Parks Department earlier this month.
Tesoro's past projects include one at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester. Last year, Tesoro spoke to reporters claiming Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, had shorted his firm on the bill, according to news reports.
Now he's fighting for another purpose.
"As an architect, I object somewhat to the plans of the Parks Department," he said.
The diving pool should retain an "aquatic function" rather than be filled in, he added. "It should have at least other uses."
Tesoro envisions restoring Astoria Park's diving pool for swimming and using it as an ice rink in the winter, then adding a deck-like stage opposite the diving boards to use for events and performances.
Architect Andrew Tesoro's design plan for how the diving pool could accommodate both a performance stage and swimming. (Courtesy of Tesoro Architects)
He came up with the idea after being approached by Kathleen Springer, an Astoria resident who's spearheaded a campaign to get the pool reopened, Tesoro said, noting the "spectacular design" of the Astoria Park Pool complex.
"It's important to take this precious resource and do as much as we can with it," Tesoro said.
Tesoro doesn't have an exact figure for how much the plan would cost to implement, but thinks it could possibly be cheaper or close in cost to the Parks Department's current plan for the site.
"Filling a 17-foot basin with gravel and then paving over half an acre of that with attractive material — that's not inexpensive activity," he said.
Springer, who for the last six months has been doggedly pushing the Parks Department to change course on its plan to pave over the diving pool, called Tesoro's proposal "amazing."
"[It's] bringing it back to its original plan," said Springer, who grew up using the diving pool. "It seems like it would be a win-win."
A Parks Department spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing Tesoro's designs but that it's moving ahead with its plan to convert the pool into a public plaza, a project that is "years in the making."
"A lot of time, effort and money has gone into this execution," spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said in an email, adding that designs for the plaza space are already finished.
"Reversing our plan from creating a plaza for this community to restoring the diving pool for use would require substantial work to bring the pool up to current health and safety standards," she said.
Both the pool itself and the diving platform would need to be reconstructed to meet current Department of Health standards and the pool would also need a new filtration system and other plumbing upgrades, she said.
"In relation to the very limited public demand for diving facilities, the agency has decided that repurposing the space for broader public use is the best way to proceed," Lalor said.
The diving pool sits to the south of the main Olympic-sized pool, both of which opened in 1936. But the diving pool was closed more than 20 years ago for safety reasons, according to the Parks Department.
In 2012, the city announced its plan to convert the diving pool into a amphitheater, but the proposal was scaled back last year after a bid for the project came in over budget. Plans to renovate the seating and concession area were scrapped.
The current project has a budget of $3.5 million and includes filling in the dive tank to create the plaza space and restoring the pool's diving platform.
"The new plaza will give New Yorkers of all abilities increased access to this area within the park for a longer amount of time and provide the community with a location to host events and programs," Lalor said.
Tesoro said he plans to attend a community meeting Wednesday night at which the Parks Department will be discussing ideas it received for the Anchor Parks program, which will provide $30 million for capital projects to improve Astoria Park.
Lalor said the Parks Department does not plan to use Anchor Parks funding for the diving pool plan since the plaza project is already funded.