July 20, 2017 By Jason Cohen
The business climate on Steinway Street, the treatment of food cart vendors and the security afforded to residents of the Astoria Houses were some of the many items discussed when Mayor Bill de Blasio held a town hall in Astoria last night.
The town hall took place inside a packed auditorium at P.S. 70, located at 30-44-43rd St., and was part of his ongoing series of town halls taking place across Queens. The mayor held a town hall in Rego Park last month, one in Long Island City in April and another in Corona in March.
One issue on several people’s minds was Steinway Street and the need for it to be revitalized.
The street, which was once a flourishing retail area, now has many vacancies and is no longer the attractive destination it once was, residents said.
De Blasio was asked how he could bring it back to life.
The mayor said that he is backing a plan to redesign Steinway Street, where it would become more pedestrian friendly as well as green. He said through streetscaping, Steinway Street would be safer for pedestrians and would promote commerce.
Council Member Costa Constantinides, who proposed this redesign months ago, lauded de Blasio for his support.
“Shoppers should be able to more easily and safely cross the street to travel between businesses,” Constantinides said. “We look forward to working with the DOT and community stakeholders on this redesign.”
One business owner told the mayor that retailers on Steinway are finding it tough to survive because of high costs such as property taxes. He said that property taxes just keep going up and up.
“Property taxes are higher than rents used to be just a dozen years ago,” the business owner said.
De Blasio said he understood the plight of small business owners but it is not easy lowering property taxes.
The mayor said that amount levied for property taxes is determined, in part, by the amount of funds the city gets from Washington.
He claimed that if President Trump eliminates the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of people uninsured, the city would have to find funds to cover lost revenue, making it difficult to cut property taxes.
“Going forward, we are trying to do whatever we can to reduce pressure on small businesses,” the mayor said.
One resident, who has been a food cart vendor for nearly a decade, said he gets inspected nearly 10 times as much as brick-and-mortar restaurants. He asked the mayor what is being done to ease enforcement and increase the number of permits.
Street vendors have been calling on the mayor to lift the cap on the number of permits issued which is currently at 3,100. Many pay lofty fees for black market permits or operate illegally.
The mayor explained that this is a complex issue and that change is needed.
“We want legal vendors,” the mayor said. “We want the maximum opportunity for people to become legal. We want to stop what is an underground economy for the permits. These are all the factors we’re trying to sort out.”
The city needs to work on setting a new number for how many permits should be issued, he said. Then it needs to be maintained.
“The goal is to come out of this with a rational system,” de Blasio said. “Right now we don’t have a rational system. Right now a lot of the enforcement comes down to if food carts are in the right place and if the vendor can legally sell.”
Some questions last night dealt with public housing and the safety of tenants.
A few residents of Astoria Houses expressed how they do not feel safe living there.
One woman told the mayor the doors don’t lock and the buildings need more cameras.
De Blasio shared her sentiments and stressed how more needs to be done to ensure people are not afraid at home.
“People need to feel safe in their own community and we have work to do to get to that point,” he said.
In the most recent budget, Constantinides allocated $1 million toward TV cameras in the stairwells at Astoria Houses and extra lighting in the parking lot.
The event was co-hosted by Constantinides, Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and District Council 22.
Go ahead Bill, blame steinway street’s decline on Trump.
The problem with steinway is the parking. They need to build a multilevel parking garage with security always present. Make the streets paved with cobblestone and no street traffic between the hours of 9 to 7 on weekends. all deliveries must be done on off hours. Maybe offer trolleys to get people from one end to other. They need to attract better quality retailers, and then watch it bustle like it did back in the 80’s. There are no quality retailers on Steinway plus the parking is horrendous.
Steinway first got destroyed because of all the hookah places…. it all went downhill from there
Make it safer to cross Steinway by Astoria Blvd, where cars turn at high speed to get into GCT service road or go towards the Triboro bridge. A very point for pedestrians to cross. Woukd be great if there was a light that did not allow cars to turn for a few moments, then a green arrow to allow cars to turn.
Is it me or does Constantinides seem a little off?
Would love to see Steinway become more pedestrian friendly.
Astoria is a walking neighborhood. People used to walk everywhere. My wife’s family didn’t even have a car when she was a kid. Now every household has 2 or 3 cars and nobody wants to walk because they are lazy and fat.
The attitudes seem similar to the resistance of making Shore Blvd more pedestrian and less car friendly a couple of years ago. Get over it. NYC is a walking city. Stop being so lazy. My great grandmother died in her 80’s and never owned a car, and she walked everywhere in Astoria (or took the bus).
The people who resisted The Shore Boulevard plan were right. I live on the other side of the park 19th Street and traffic is now a lot more dangerous on that end. Thank you very much but what’s needed is a common sense approach to sharing the roads not Simple Solutions like going backwards to the 1920s
If you can’t fix it, paint it.
This Mayor along with ALL elected officials representing Astoria as well as CB 1 are bowing down to special interest groups at the expense of our community. It is time that we the community rise up and put a stop to this destruction. Sad state of affairs here in Astoria.
Would love to hear suggestions on how to make it better.
Most of Steinway street from19 th ave to northern Blvd does not have the welcoming appearance like it use to .Steinway was the place to buy just about everything you needed for the house …once northern Blvd added the big stores like pergaments back in the late seventies early eighties I believe that was the beginning of the end… the big stores dominated the mom and pop stores .
Geez people brick-and-mortar retail is dead.. Amazon killed it and will continue to kill it. What Steinway needs is the cap on greedy landlords who don’t care about the fabric of the neighborhood that is created by the local merchants.
Oh boy here comes another clueless traffic design.
I wish I could like this a hundred times
Taking steps to regulate commercial leases would help
Adding some trees and a dozen speedbumps will help revitalize Steinway. Sure.
Why the unnecessary negativity? Have to start with something or Steinway is going to become a dead zone. The street looks trashy these days, so who wants to go there? I rarely go there these days. Streetscaping, trees, repavement and all that will clean it up. If we don’t start now, next thing we know it will become not only even less vibrant, but dangerous too. Decay and neglect is not good for cities.
I agree with you .
Trees, maintenance AND no garbages make a difference .
This neighborhood need ls to start ticketing people that litter and ticketing unkept properties
I say that everywhere I go…..Trashy people need ti get tickets !!!
Why don’t small businesses get some incentive to open in high priced tax areas to offset that? If he really wants to help small business let him formulate a plan to help small business