Jan. 31, 2018 By Tara Law
Astoria Councilmember Costa Constantinides announced an ambitious plan to overhaul the Astoria Park pool during his State of the District speech last night.
Constantinides introduced the initiative in front of 120 community members and leaders at P.S. 17 Henry David Thoreau, where he also discussed plans to pass environmental legislation, bring affordable senior housing to the district, and promote asthma safety in schools.
The plan to overhaul the pool, he said, would be separate from the $30 million that has already been allocated by the Mayor to revitalize Astoria Park under the city’s Anchor Park Initiative. That initiative includes a new soccer field and the overhaul of Charybdis Playground.
Constantinides, who started his second term in office this year, aims for a “full overhaul” of the pool’s basin and deck–potentially resulting in the pool being open year-round. The plans would also include a “facelift” of the pool’s locker rooms and bathrooms.
The pool renovation is “one of the main goals of my second term,” Constantinides said.
“Now, let’s be clear,” he said. “This will be a larger capital expense by far than any I have undertaken, and it will not be completed before I leave office. All of us, however, have a responsibility to ensure that we leave things better than we found them, and while it will be daunting, I believe that we can do it.”
Constantinides also announced his mission to build at least 500 affordable housing units for seniors in the district by the end of his term.
New York’s senior population has grown twice as fast as the general population over the past decade, Constantinides said, and seniors in the district are disproportionately affected by rising living expenses.
“Our office has gotten too many anguished pleas for help finding decent housing, and we have a duty to act now,” said Constantinides.
Constantinides speech took place about two hours prior to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, which hovered over the proceedings. Constantinides drew a sharp distinction between his beliefs as a political leader and the president’s, with the councilmember emphasizing the need for environmental regulations, tax fairness and affordable housing for seniors.
Constantinides discussed his role as chair of the council’s Environmental Protection Committee and said that 2017 was a particularly productive year for the committee. Constantinides noted that it passed 16 bills in 2017 and plans were put in place to curb emissions, encourage wind power and prepare the city for flooding.
“We knew that, with Washington taking a hatchet to the EPA, we had our work cut out for us,” he said.
Constantinides said that he plans to introduce a bill that would lead to the reduction of emissions from all buildings 25,000 square feet and over. The bill would place a cap on fossil fuels burned on site and set an overall energy target.
“If done correctly, this legislation could give us up to a 10% reduction in our city’s greenhouse gas emissions, the largest in city history from any single policy,” Constantinides said. Details of the bill still need to be fleshed out.
He also plans to introduce legislation that would require the city to study flood patterns and come up with plans to mitigate their impact.
“Northwest and southeast Queens are the front lines in our borough for this flooding and are home to half a million New Yorkers as well as much of the city’s most sensitive infrastructure including airports and power plants,” Constantinides said.
Constantinides discussed two bills he introduced last fall to combat asthma. The first piece of legislation would require the City to collect asthma hospitalization rates and prevalence across communities on the basis of race, age and educational attainment.
The second bill would require all schools to have nebulizers. Although state law requires all schools with a nurse to have nebulizers, funds were never allocated to fund the program.
Constantinides concluded his speech by reminding his audience that although Trump is from Queens, the borough does not need to follow his example. He called for all the boroughs residents to stand in solidarity with their immigrant neighbors, the environment and as a community.
“As one, we will look out for our neighbors, and let them know that we will protect them, and that they do not need to be afraid,” said Constantinides.
“As one, we will safeguard our natural resources and our public institutions for generations yet to come. And as one, we will show our native son in the Oval Office that it is tolerance and love, not division and discord, that lie at the heart of the Queens we love and that light the path to our future.”