August 6, By Jackie Strawbridge
Assembly Member Aravella Simotas has requested that the Department of Transportation ban cars from the waterfront edge of Astoria Park.
Simotas, in a letter addressed Tuesday, charged that traffic on Shore Boulevard from Astoria Park South to Ditmars Boulevard poses both a danger and a nuisance to those who live and work nearby. She requested that the DOT close it off to vehicular traffic.
The request does not apply to emergency vehicles, according to her office.
“This half-mile portion of roadway provides no meaningful transportation purpose and contributes to a number of problems for our community,” Simotas wrote, citing speeding, reckless driving, drinking and drug use.
“Closing Shore Boulevard between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard to vehicles would have minimal effect on congestion in the area, would enhance access to the waterfront, and would undoubtedly make Astoria Park a safer and more enjoyable space,” she went on.
Per public records, this stretch of road has seen dozens of collisions and noise complaints for music and partying over the past several years.
An overnight parking ban already exists on this stretch of road.
As of Thursday afternoon, the DOT had yet not seen Simotas’ letter, according to officials. However, a spokesperson said that it is an issue the agency looks forward to discussing further with community stakeholders.
The DOT did not immediately respond to follow up questions regarding the process of closing a street permanently to traffic, and which parties would be involved.
Simotas’ idea has the support of the Astoria Park Alliance, according to APA chairperson Martha Lopez-Gilpin.
“Astoria Park was created to give park users access to the waterfront. The closure of Shore Boulevard would extend Astoria Park all the way to the water, ensure pedestrian safety, increase programming potential and fulfill the vision upon which Astoria Park was founded,” Lopez-Gilpin said in a statement.
However, not everyone was convinced that the closure would have a positive impact.
The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, which has mulled a slew of possible traffic changes around Astoria Park internally, is not yet taking a position on Simotas’ request, according to OANA President Richard Khuzami.
Randy Klein, who owns Whiskers Holistic Pet Care on Ditmars Boulevard near Astoria Park, called the idea “totally ridiculous.”
“It’s hard enough for businesses on that side of town to entice people to come down, and now you’re going to take off the waterside view, which is a big draw,” she said. “Now you’re going to make someone park blocks and blocks away, when there’s no parking for residents to begin with.”