May 13, 2016 By Michael Florio
Several Astoria residents questioned the Department of Transportation and elected officials about their decision to convert Shore Boulevard into a one-way street at a town hall meeting held at the Museum of the Moving Image last night.
Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, who hosted the town hall that included representatives of several City and State agencies, said the decision was made after local officials and the DOT held visioning sessions with residents.
“This has been such a long-standing issue,” Simotas said. “We have received complaints regarding Shore Boulevard on a daily basis for a long time—often about people speeding.”
But many residents who attended last night’s town hall opposed the plan.
Harry Panagiotopoulos, owner of the Sweet Spot at 22-72 31st Street, said he was “disturbed” by the DOT’s decision to redesign Shore Boulevard since everyone he knows is against it.
“We don’t know who asked for it or who wants it,” Panagiotopoulos said.
Several residents shouted that they too oppose it.
The DOT’s redesign will turn Shore Boulevard into a one-way street, which will make room for a protected bike lane on the side of the roadway replacing the one currently on the sidewalk.
Community Board 1 approved the plan in February.
Moving the bike lane into the street will also narrow the roadway, therefore causing motorists to slow down, said Albert Silvestri, Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner with the DOT.
Council Member Costa Constantinides said many residents have complained about speeding and have also asked to move the bicycle lane off of the pedestrian sidewalk, while not forfeiting any parking spaces.
“We had to compromise to make everyone happy,” he said. “This is only step one of a larger plan to calm the surrounding streets.”
Panagiotopoulos disagreed, stating that a one-way street will make things more chaotic.
“If there is an accident how will police cars and ambulances get there?” he asked. “This is not making the street safer, it will do the opposite.”
Another resident said installing speed cameras along Shore Boulevard would be a better solution. However, the DOT is not permitted to install cameras at that location, Silvestri said.
Simotas pointed out that if the plan to convert the boulevard to a one-way street does not work it will be revisited.
“This is not set in stone,” she said. “If the solution doesn’t work we have to work together and find another.”
Panagiotopoulos was not pleased to hear that.
“We will have to spend money to change this and spend more money to revert it back,” he said.
Silvestri, however, said that this project will not be costing millions of dollars.
Despite the opposition, Rose Marie Poveromo, Founder and President of the United Community Civic Association, stated that the community has to be more vocal.
“There are more people on the panel than in the audience,” Poveromo said to the roughly 40 people in attendance. “The community needs to come out and be vocal to get things done.”