No one has dipped a toe in the refreshing waters of the Fante-Leone Pool for two years, and many residents hope it stays that way.
This week the Bella Vista United Civic Association revealed a proposal to use the space on the 800 block of Montrose Street for an Italian immigrant memorial.
The plans are very preliminary, admitted Vernon Anastasio, chair of BVUCA’s Reasons to Stay Committee, but they tentatively entail filling in the pool and installing an open-air tribute to the artisans who came here from Italy and settled throughout the region.
"This wouldn’t just be a treasure for Bella Vista," he said. "This would be a treasure for all Italian Americans in the entire southeastern region of Pennsylvania."
There is no specific design for the tribute yet, but Anastasio envisions artwork depicting Italian craftsmanship past and present. He intends to accept proposals from people around the region.
Christine Mascuilli, the captain of the 800 block of Montrose and a member of BVUCA, welcomes any improvement to the pool property.
"Anything is better than if they opened it as a pool again," she said, adding it is important for someone to take responsibility for the site.
Mascuilli has a file of letters she has written to the city about problems associated with Fante-Leone since 1993. Among them is a letter she wrote to former Councilman James Tayoun about the plight of the woman living next to the pool, whose basement regularly flooded because of the facility’s leaky pipes.
Besides the flooding headaches, Mascuilli said the pool also was a haven for disruptive crowds. Kids hung out unsupervised on her street, disturbing neighbors and littering the pavement, she said. "It was just horrible, year after year."
The radical change to the property the civic group is seeking hinges on the city’s willingness to dump the pool. BVUCA has written a letter to the Department of Recreation outlining its proposal, Anastasio said.
The group has not discussed the plans with Councilman Frank DiCicco or any other local politicians. Anastasio said he is awaiting a response from the Recreation Department.
A recreation official contacted Tuesday said the city has no intention to sell or permanently close the Fante-Leone Pool.
"If the Recreation Department doesn’t want to sell it, what do they plan to do with it?" Mascuilli asked. "It’s an eyesore."
The department intends to repair and reopen the pool once money is budgeted for it, the official said; however, she could not say when that would happen, explaining it depended on DiCicco requesting the funds in the next budget.
The official added she was unaware of the letter BVUCA had sent the department.
DiCicco said several residents have presented him with proposals for the facility — including one group interested in buying it and making it a private swim club. When told about the latest proposal for an Italian immigrant memorial on Monday evening, he said it was the first he had heard of it.
"They haven’t approached me," DiCicco said, referring to the members of BVUCA. "I am open to any suggestion."
Any group interested in acquiring the facility would need to have the funds to buy the property from the city, repair it and maintain it before he would back its proposal, he said.
Anastasio said he expects this to be a long process, and promised to find a different site for a memorial if necessary.