Two weeks ago when plans were released for a once $1 million, now $4.3 million project to transform the defunct art deco diving pool next to the Astoria pool into an amphitheater, the reaction from some was “huh?”
How did a plan quadruple in price?
At first, based on a meeting held on Feb. 20, the price tag seemed to have skyrocketed because of materials. However, the cost of cement hasn’t matured like gold.
Asked to clarify, a city Parks Department spokesman said the scope of the project has grown.
The original project consisted of filling in and decking over the former diving pool, he wrote in an email. The expanded plan includes those two aspects as well as widening of the original south entrance to the pool, repair and patching of the existing concrete diving pool deck, reconstructing all the fences in the space with iron picket fencing, repairing of existing lights and replacement of lighting where necessary, repaving of the sidewalks adjacent to the performance space and adjusting paths as necessary to create an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant pathway to the main parking lot.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) allocated the money for the proposal. He wants to see shovels in the ground before his term-limited tenure expires at the end of the year — although he does aspire to represent Queens as the next borough president — but is not happy with the escalated price.
“In my mind the scope was always for an amphitheater that was both functional and beautiful,” he said. “While some additional aspects have been added to the original plan, such as an ADA ramp to the main parking lot, I think [Parks officials’] cost estimate was overly optimistic at first, and I’ve explained to them that all estimates better be dead on in the future. It’s not like we hit an Aztec burial ground.”
As for comments online that the money should go toward oft-neglected Flushing Meadows Corona Park instead, Vallone responded that “the argument isn’t about if money should be going to different Queens parks, the argument should be why it goes to other boroughs and not Queens.”