Nov. 22, 2023 By Bill Parry
Council Member Julie Won and representatives of Hester Street, a community development nonprofit, hosted a town hall meeting in Astoria on Nov. 16 to kickoff a community-driven planning process for the Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue Study.
More than 100 residents from Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria shared their input on future development in their communities.
“Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue are home to vibrant, multicultural communities that lack access to affordable housing, crucial infrastructure to prevent flooding in our small businesses, and safe streets for residents,” Won said. “Our comprehensive community planning process for this study area will ensure that we are engaging all of the communities, including our Himalayan, Bengali, Filipino, Latin American and Central American neighbors, to develop a community-driven vision for our neighborhoods. For the next eight months, we look forward to working with Hester Street and residents to grow and improve the neighborhoods we love with better opportunities for infrastructure transportation, jobs and housing.”
The study area will focus on Roosevelt Avenue between Queens Boulevard and the BQE on one side and along Northern Boulevard between Queens Boulevard and the BQE on the other.
“We have the opportunity to prioritize the pulse of our community. This event signifies a crucial step towards shaping the future of our neighborhoods. By embracing a community-led approach, Council Member Julie Won is spearheading a much needed approach to truly represent collective effort, one that is created and led by the community,” Woodside on the Move Executive Director William Jourdain said. “This town hall is not just an event; it’s an opportunity for residents to actively participate in shaping our collective destiny. From affordable housing and development to street safety, transportation, environmental resilience and fostering community, commercial and industrial vitality, every voice matters. Together, we will craft a blueprint that reflects the unique needs and aspirations of our diverse community, ensuring a future that thrives on the strength of our shared vision.”
The town hall was held at Hester Street’s Legal Outreach center across 35th Street from Kaufman Astoria Studios, one of the developers behind the $2 billion Innovation QNS that was approved just over a year ago. Community leader Evie Hantzopoulos, an advocate with Astoria Not For Sale, was a vocal opponent of Innovation QNS.
“Meaningful community engagement — not developer and real estate agendas — should be at the heart of planning for our city,” Hantzopoulos said. “For too long, the needs for deeply affordable housing, critical infrastructure improvements, small business and industrial space, public green space, and care for our most vulnerable immigrant and lower income neighbors have been neglected. It’s time to take back our city from big real estate and put the power in the people’s hands.”
Feedback was collected in four key areas” affordable housing and development; environment and resilience; community, commercial, and industrial areas’ and street safety and transportation.
“This process presents a tremendous opportunity to transform car-centric planning into walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented community spaces that meet the needs of our community. We look forward to working with Council Member Won and neighbors to create neighborhoods that work for all of us,” said Laura Shepard, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives.
Astoria resident Rana Abdelhamid, who launched a congressional campaign in April 2021 in a challenge against 14-term U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, before suspending the campaign when Maloney’s district was redrawn out of Queens.
Abdelhamid is executive director of Malikah, an Astoria-based nonprofit that builds power for women and girls from marginalized backgrounds through self-defense, healing, organizing and financial literacy.
The crisis of affordable housing in Queens persistently and directly endangers our Malikah communities of immigrants, the economically disadvantaged, and the working class,” Abedelhamid said. “With the escalating cost of living, an increasing number of families in our area face growing hardships. It’s imperative that we act swiftly to construct additional affordable housing and safeguard our district’s tenants. Initiating a thorough community planning process in District 26 is an essential and critical initial step. I am thankful that this process prioritizes the perspectives of those most affected by the housing affordability crisis in Astoria, Woodside and Sunnyside, ensuring that our communities are not further displaced.”