Based on Limited Feedback, Vallone Opposes Astoria Pedestrian Plaza

So far, a small but vocal group of plaza opponents have the ear of City Council Member Peter Vallone when it comes to this pedestrian project in Astoria. Image of proposed plaza footprint: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-06_newtown-plaza-public-workshop.pdf##NYC DOT##

City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. opposes a proposal to create a new pedestrian plaza in public space-starved Astoria. The plaza is one of the options on the table for a dangerous intersection that NYC DOT has targeted for safety imporovements.

The irregular intersection of 33rd Street, 30th Avenue and Newtown Avenue has long been a dangerous place to cross. In 2001, Community Board 1 sent a letter to DOT asking for major pedestrian safety fixes at the intersection. Recent data from DOT show that it is one of the most crash-prone locations in Queens, with more crashes than 89 percent of the borough’s other intersections.

On June 5, DOT hosted a meeting to present two options to the community. The first, which would install three curb extensions, grew out of a 2006 study DOT conducted as part of a citywide school safety program, which included nearby P.S. 17. The curb extensions would be installed at a cost of $400,000 and could begin to be built in spring 2013.

The second option would create a pedestrian plaza on Newtown Avenue between a driveway and 30th Avenue. The plaza would be less expensive and faster to install than the three curb extensions, costing $75,000. It would also provide 4,700 square feet of new public space to Astoria, identified by the Parks Department as one of the 10 neighborhoods with the least amount of open space in New York. DOT would work with the Central Astoria Local Development Corporation to maintain the plaza.

“Either way that this goes, it will be a win for the intersection,” said Marie Torniali, executive director of the LDC. “The intersection needs something, both for the safety of pedestrians and aesthetically.” Torniali described those in attendance at last week’s workshop as being evenly split on which alternative they preferred.

Opposition to the plaza proposal has come from a small number of vocal business owners. Some businesses are objecting to a net reduction of seven parking spaces. Flower shop owner and CB1 member Gus Prentzas told DNAinfo, “People want to be able to shop in the area and stop in front of Key Food.”

Most shoppers at the proposed plaza location arrive by foot. Survey graphic: NYC DOT

But more pedestrian space will not prevent people from shopping. The vast majority of customers already arrive on foot. DOT surveyed Key Food shoppers at four different times and found that 82 percent of customers walk to the store, while only 8 percent arrive by car.

Before last week’s meeting, Vallone’s office had heard from only 15 people on the plaza proposal, with 10 opposed and five in support. “I get complaints from those business owners weekly that we need more parking,” he told the LIC/Astoria Journal.

Vallone’s office says that the council member is opposed to the plaza but is in contact with DOT about safety improvements that don’t involve closing the street to car traffic.

At last week’s meeting, Astoria resident Tamara Reynolds said Vallone should listen to more than just a loud minority. “I never knocked down his door, he can’t be psychic,” she told the Queens Chronicle. “But for him to come into a meeting, and have 10 people who won’t shut up and assume that’s the opinion of everyone here, is a little hard.”

DOT will present the project to Community Board 1 at its monthly meeting on September 11 and may present it to the board’s transportation committee before then.

Correction: This story originally stated that Peter Vallone had not decided whether to support or oppose the plaza. Vallone’s office clarified that he opposes the plaza but has yet to select a preference between other options to improve safety at the intersection. DOT has presented only one other option. The post has been edited with the updated information.

  • Walking In Astoria

    Maybe we could get business buy-in if we call it Key Food Plaza?

  • Barnard

    No, name it Vallone Plaza.

  • Todd

    This article nailed it.  There is a small minority against the plaza project, but they are LOUD.  They currently have petitions against it in local businesses and they post all over sites about the plaza (heads-up, I’m sure they’ll be here too.)  Regardless, the plaza is the safest option and should definitely be built!

  • Anonymous

    Opposition: “People want to be able to shop in the area and stop in front of Key Food.”

    Yeah, because nothing is worse for people shopping in the area than creating an open space that will become a hub for foot traffic.

  • Todd

    .@VelvetKnight Same for the local coffee shops.  Why they’re not supporting an area for people to sit and drink their products is beyond me.  Cafe to Go is a perfect example. A plaza would be a fantastic thing for them (and everyone else in the neighborhood.)

  • I think this needs to be framed a different way, especially reading your correction. 

    It’s either $75,000 for a pedestrian plaza or $400,000 for curb cuts, right?  So in other words, Vallone’s opposition to a pedestrian plaza could cost taxpayers an extra $325,000 simply because the 8% of people who arrive to this grocery store by car are louder than the 82% of people who don’t.

  • Sorry, the 92% of people who don’t.

  • S

    I wonder if Vallone has any connections to the contractors that could win the curb project?

  • Ben Kintisch

    So far, the pedestrian plazas are great for small businesses, and maybe that information just hasn’t been communicated well enough to the business owners. My guess is that the biggest objection is from the owners themselves, who want to drive to work and park out front. Very few people drive to shop and do errands in this kind of congested area. It’s all about walking and pushing a granny cart!

  • The reason there is opposition is because there are a number of issue with the closure of Newtown Avenue.
    1. A major relief valve for the traffic on 30th Avenue & 33rd Street uses Newtown.
    2.Businesses load and unload from this street because it is wide and allows traffic to continue passing, Trucks will be unable to make the turn on 32nd Street, which is very narrow and short in length, and will further block traffic on 30th Avenue & 33rd Street.
    3.This Plaza brings with it vagrants, noise, garbage, & loitering. SEE Athens Square at 10pm for what we’re talking about, for those who are interested in the Plaza but don’t have it right in front of their homes.
    4. The elimination of 7 parking spots, further congests the area and inconveniences the residents who use it for overnight, & the shoppers who need it when traveling with elderly & kids to the multiple stores & medical offices in the area.

    Visit http://www.facebook.com/newtownopen   for more info on what is proposed from some in the community to improve pedestrian safety but also keep the street open as needed by businesses and immediate residents.

  • Todd

    Visit 
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=344221995650186&set=a.344221992316853.77363.242627292476324&type=1 to read a 108 comment discussion in which Ekaterina goes bonkers and ends the discussion with veiled threats.

  • Bolwerk

    Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between patrician NYC Democrats and vanilla Republikans. 

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Antonio Reynoso: DOT Should Forge Ahead With Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza

|
Council Member Antonio Reynoso wants DOT to move forward with its safety plan at the busy Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub, with or without the endorsement of the local community board. Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Community 4 voted against DOT’s plan, which would dramatically reduce potential conflicts between drivers and pedestrians and create a car-free plaza on one block of Wyckoff Avenue between Myrtle and […]

Myrtle-Wyckoff Plaza Gets Support From Queens CB 5 Transpo Committee

|
Last night, the Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee endorsed DOT’s safety plan for the Myrtle-Wyckoff transit hub on the border between Brooklyn and Queens, including the creation of a one-block pedestrian plaza on Wyckoff Avenue between Gates and Myrtle [PDF]. The project straddles two community board districts and was voted down by Brooklyn CB 4 […]

City Council Candidates on the Issues: Costa Constantinides, District 22

|
Streetsblog continues our series on City Council candidates with a look at the race for District 22 in Queens, which covers Astoria, Ditmars-Steinway, and northern Jackson Heights. The seat has been held by Peter Vallone, Jr. since 2002; he is now running for Queens Borough President. Two Democratic primary candidates — Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides and anti-crime activist Antonio […]