Feb. 3, 2015 By Michael Florio
Councilman Costa Constantinides, who delivered a speech as part of his state of the district event Thursday, told an audience of about 200 people that he is committed to bettering the lives of the everyday Astorians and promoting green technology.
Constantinides, who has completed his first year in office, said that he aims to make sure that homeowners and renters are not priced out of the neighborhood.
“No one should have to worry about living in this community long term,” he said.
Homeowners are faced with a growing number of bills, Constantinides said. He said that water rates and property taxes continue to climb and have become burdensome on home owners.
He said that he aims to alleviate some of the pain and is co-sponsoring a bill that would grant tax relief by reinstating the $500 tax rebate from years past.
He also plans to oppose a water tax, which caused water rates to double under the Bloomberg administration as he looked for ways to gain city revenue.
For renters, Constantinides noted that prices continue to climb.
While he can’t do much about free-market rental prices, he said he plans on making sure that large developers—where possible– provide affordable housing at a price point that a typical Astorian can afford.
Constantinides said he was pleased with the deal he struck with the developer of Astoria Cove, where 27 percent of the 1,700 units have been set aside for low and middle income earners.
Nevertheless, he said that rental prices for ‘affordable’ units should be priced at a level for local residents.
He said that action is needed by the federal government to change the formula it uses to determine affordability. He said the formula requires the city to use the New York Metro Area average median income (AMI) which is $62,500.
Constantinides said the AMI should be based on specific neighborhoods.
“The formula is skewed,” Constantinides said. “I am calling on the federal government to change the way it calculates AMI so it is more reflective of individual neighborhoods.”
The councilman also talked about some of the quality-of-life issues that he has addressed.
Constantinides said that he helped keep Astoria clean by introducing the DOE fund, a non-profit group that hires former homeless people to sweep the streets and pick up trash.
He said that more than $2 million has been spent on improving Astoria Heights Playground, located on 30th Road between 45th and 46th Street, and Moser Bulova Park, located on 25th Ave and 76th Street.
“When you improve a park, you improve a community,” Constantinides said.
He said he had allocated more than $1 million to Astoria schools by purchasing iPads and other hi-tech devices. Over $100,000 was also allocated to local senior centers.
Costantinides’ speech focused heavily on the environment. He noted that the first bill that he passed requires the city to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.
“New York City is the largest city in the world to commit, by law, to meet the 80% target by 2050,” he said.
To reach this goal, he said he has introduced a bill that would encourage the use of geothermal systems; he plans on introducing a bill requiring the greater use of biodiesel; and aims to spend capital dollars on promoting the use of solar panels in local schools.
He also aims to improve transportation in Astoria via the ferry system, which is coming to the Hallets Point peninsula as part of the Astoria Cove development. He applauded Governor Cuomo’s proposal to build a LaGuardia airport ferry terminal, and is calling on the city to build ferry docks at Roosevelt Island and Hunters Point in Long Island City.
“If you want to make this system worthwhile, we have to make sure the ferry takes people where they want to go,” he said.
He said he will work to replace the decaying docks near the Hallets Cove Playground with ecodocks, which are built on large pylons, allowing the dock to float with the tides.
These docks could be used to dock small boats and kayaks, but also for schools to conduct educational programs to teach students about marine life, Constantinides said.
“It’s time that we return to our roots and once again connect with one of our greatest local resources: the East River,” he said.