February 1, By Hannah Wulkan
A local councilman has big plans to overhaul Steinway Street and make it more pedestrian-friendly.
Councilman Costa Constantinides laid out plans in his State of the District speech last night to update Steinway Street and restore it as “ the beating commercial heart of Astoria.”
Constantinides outlined his two-part plan for the area, aiming to update the streetscape for increased safety and walkability, as well as create a public space for shoppers to sit and relax.
“For a number of reasons, business along Steinway Street has been in flux for several years now, making it the right moment to ask, once again, “what is a street?” and “what is it for?” Constantinides said. “That’s why, tonight, I’m calling for a comprehensive reinvestment in Steinway Street that ensures that our neighborhood’s hub continues to thrive in the 21st century.”
Constantinides explained that there have been 249 traffic-related injuries, and 95 specific pedestrian injuries, in the last five years on Steinway Street.
To address these safety concerns, he called on the Department of Transportation to add mid-block crosswalks to Steinway Street, to prevent pedestrians from illegally crossing the street in the middle. He pointed out that the way Steinway is laid out now, pedestrians often need to walk large distances to safely use a crosswalk simply to reach a store across the street from where they are.
He also is asking for the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which are walk signals that give pedestrians a few extra seconds before vehicles can begin moving again.
The second piece of Constantinides’ plan involves adding a public plaza or park so that pedestrians can sit and relax.
“One thing that many, if not most, great shopping areas have to bring people in is a place to sit and read a newspaper, chat with a friend, or simply take in the hustle and bustle,” Constantinides said, pointing to Union and Madison Squares in Manhattan and to food courts and seating areas in malls throughout the country.
He pointed out that there is no area like this on Steinway Street, and said he hopes to put together a community working group to work with the Business Improvement District to figure out where and how to add a similar public space.
Constantinides laid out his plans at his annual “State of the District” address, where he outlined his progress over the last year and suggested future plans.
Another future plan he mentioned was ensuring that all parks in his district that had not yet been updated get worked on in the next five years. He also said that he plans to introduce a bill to move up the date that power plants need to phase out the polluting number 4 oil, and said that he would like to eventually see a waterfront park that stretches from Hallets Point to Hunters Point, though that is in the fairly distant future.
Much of his speech focused on the necessity of city and state government, now that Donald Trump is President and “has made clear that he intends to undo all the work that we have done to protect consumers, workers, and our environment.”
“We might fear the uncertainty ahead on our national stage, but that darkness can be illuminated by our actions and our efforts here in Astoria,” Constantinides said.
“This city is welcome to everyone, regardless of where they come from or how they got here. It is welcome to everyone, regardless of their orientation or gender identity – there will never be a bathroom bill in New York City. It is welcome to everyone, no matter what religion they practice, or if they practice no religion at all. New York will be the World’s City as surely as Queens is the World’s Borough. Anyone may call it home,” he said.