February 24, By Hannah Wulkan
Councilman Costa Constantinides officially announced plans to update street safety and add a public gathering space to Steinway Street today.
In the coming months, Constantinides plans to make improvements to the streetscape to increase safety and form a working group to determine a space for a public plaza, he announced, along with various other politicians and community organizations.
“Steinway is the beating heart of our neighborhood,” Constantinides said. “Business along the thoroughfare has been transitioning over the last few years. We have an opportunity to ask what is Steinway Street and what is it used for?”
Under Constantinides’ proposal, he plans to install mid-block crosswalks to make the street more conducive to pedestrians and shoppers, as he pointed out that a pedestrian might have to walk up to 1,000 extra feet to cross the street legally to reach a store directly across from where they were.
He also plans to add Leading Pedestrian Interval signals, which give pedestrians a six second head start while crossing the street before the traffic light changes, increasing safety and visibility of pedestrians to drivers.
The most ambitious part of his proposal, however, revolves around creating a public gathering space to provide seating and a place for pedestrians and shoppers to relax along the thoroughfare, though Constantinides is unsure where exactly the plaza would go along the strip.
“Steinway Street has always been one of the biggest and most successful shopping strips around, or I would dare say in the nation, and the reason is because it’s always kept up with the times and the changing neighborhood,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said, adding that the proposed updates are necessary to continue that trend.
The project is still in the very early stages, however, and Constantinides is looking for public input on how to improve the street. He set up an email address to collect public comments, [email protected], and is looking to put together a community working group to figure out where the public plaza should go.
“This is the way community and government work. We have been thinking about these plans for a number of years, talking about them, and going to our elected officials who are really open to the ideas that we had and now we are working together not only on those ideas but even better and more ideas for the street,” said Kevin Foley, the president of the local business improvement district called the Steinway Astoria Partnership.
The streetscape updates are likely to come before the plaza, Constantinides said, but did not say when they would be installed, as he is working with the Department of Transportation on exact details.
Community Board 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris called Steinway Street the “Jewel of New York City,” and said that it will “be even bigger and better thanks to our public officials.”
“We are going to make sure that this area is not bypassed by the future, it is going to be the future,” she said.