Aug. 17, 2018 By Tara Law
Councilmember Costa Constantinides has increased funding to keep Astoria’s streets clean and make the commercial districts greener.
Constantinides said today that he has allocated $290,000 this year— up from $250,000 last year— to keep the neighborhood graffiti and litter free, and to add new greenery.
Several of the street improvement measures this year are intended to beautify the 30th Avenue area, an area where businesses suffered due to the 8-month closure of the nearby N/W subway station.
New planters and tree beds will be installed along the avenue. The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition received $35,000 of the $290,000 to install the tree beds.
Constantinides noted that the 30th Avenue station closure had a “huge impact” on many local shops, and that he hoped making the area more attractive would entice more shoppers to frequent that stretch.
“People, when they come back to 30th Avenue, will see an even more beautiful [commercial strip] than they found before,” said Constantinides.
Constantinides said that this effort and the other cleanup and beautification efforts are also intended to improve the quality of life for residents.
Constantinides has allocated $10,000 of the $290,000 to the Department of Sanitation to add trash pickups along 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard on Saturdays. An additional $20,000 has gone to the Queens Economic Development Corporation, which partners with service provider Magic Touch to remove graffiti.
The biggest allocation was provided to the Association for Community Employment, a program which provides street cleaning and landscaping services along Astoria’s busiest streets. This fiscal year, which goes from July 1 through June 30, 2019, Constantinides allocated ACE $225,000— up from $210,000 last year.
The organization, which provides a team of five workers, has been cleaning Astoria’s streets for the last three years. With the additional allocation, the organization will clean Broadway between 31st Street and Steinway Street an additional three days a week, said ACE Quality Control Officer Leo Gil.
ACE workers currently sweep the sidewalks and gutters and replace trash bags on Ditmars Boulevard between 29th Street and Steinway Street; 31st Street from 23rd Avenue to Ditmars Boulevard; 30th Avenue from Athens Square Park to Newtown Avenue; Steinway Street from Astoria Boulevard to 28th Avenue; Shore Boulevard from Ditmars Boulevard to Astoria Boulevard South; 21st Street from 34th Avenue to 29th Avenue; and Hoyt Avenue North from 29th Street to 21st Street.
Along East Hoyt Avenue North from 29th Street to 21st Street, the workers also cut down weeds on the curbs, sidewalks and medians.
Elbert Copeland, the supervisor for the Astoria cleaning team, said that the streets were “really dirty” when the program began three years ago, but that ACE has helped to create positive change in the community.
Store owners are more likely to maintain the area in front of their stores when they see that the street is being cared for.
“When they see the guys out here, it makes them take an effort to clean in front of their businesses,” Copeland said.
Copeland and two of the men he supervises, Clinton Evans and John Baptiste, agreed that the program has also had a positive impact on their lives.
ACE’s street cleaning employees are formerly homeless people, who are able to use the job to return to the working world and to gain professional experience.
“It’s life changing,” Baptiste said.