By Donna M. Van Blarcom and Richard Melnick
Born and raised in Astoria, I grew up going to the Astoria Pool since the early 1970s, creating fond memories. I still go to the pool today, but these new memories are not so fond.
The past two years especially have been nothing but a horrific nightmare. The thing that ruins it the most is the way that the Parks Department staff, especially the woman’s locker room staff, treat the patrons.
In the past two years, I have been continuously harassed by the locker room staff, and especially by one parks officer this year on a daily basis. I have made numerous complaints to the staff on site in charge at the pool and finally this year to the local politicians, the mayor’s office and to Commissioner Silver’s office at the Parks Department, who has not responded to my complaint. However, a representative from Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski’s office did respond and said that someone would contact me. To this day, no one has, and it appears that my complaint has been swept under the rug.
Although they have toned it down a bit toward the end of this summer, they still run the locker rooms like it is a state penitentiary as if they are correction officers and we are all inmates in a prison instead of patrons at a public pool for a day out of fun and recreation.
Up until last year, there were no toilet seats on the toilets in the bathrooms. The men’s locker rooms, to this day, still don’t have any doors on them, creating an atmosphere of prison life which is very intimidating an uninviting. The whole set-up is very disturbing.
The entire staff is horrible. They are rude, demanding, very unfriendly and unprofessional. They are bullies to say the least.
In the woman’s locker room, they do not let you use the shower or the bathrooms half the time. The staff closes them early. They don’t give you enough time to get dressed. While walking the aisles to the dressing stalls they bark at you: “Let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go ladies! We want to go home, hurry up and get out!”
They lock women and children out of the locker room, some of whom do not speak English, while they sit there and laugh for five minutes before they let them back in. They get mad if you tell them there is no more toilet paper or soap or if the floor is slimy and slippery.
The lifeguards block the ladders to the pool. They have bad attitudes and talk socially to other staff while on duty, keeping them distracted at times. The entire staff walk around with their cell phones on the deck and in the locker rooms.
This is just some of what goes on at a day at the pool at Astoria Park.
There should be one person in charge of the whole pool that everyone answers to and their leadership should be enforced and respected. The staff most definitely should be trained on how to act and treat patrons and absolutely be held responsible for their bullying and harassing actions.
The Parks Department owes me a response. I feel very disheartened and powerless in how I, and others, have been treated in the past two years at this pool.
This is a great public resource that should be enjoyed by all and the community. We just want to swim.
Donna M. Van Blarcom