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Queens Pol Wants Safer Streets — But Also More Parking for Car-Loving Cops

Costa Constantinides. Photo: Flickr

Welcome to no good deed goes unpunished — Astoria version: One of Council Member Costa Constantinides's safety proposals — the construction of a new parking garage for the 114th Precinct station house — is sure to draw the ire of livable streets advocates.

In his "State of the District" speech last week, Constantinides called on the Department of Transportation to study a "complete streets" redesign the length of Astoria Boulevard from Astoria to East Elmhurst, raising the possibility of protected bike lanes. But his proposal to build a new 114th Precinct building with an off-street parking garage may not achieve its intended goal of clearing the street's sidewalks of illegally parked NYPD-affiliated vehicles.

"Officers in the 114th Precinct have behaved horribly and dangerously for years: parking on sidewalks and in crosswalks," Astoria safe streets advocate Macartney Morris told Streetsblog. "They should stop their dangerous, anti-social behavior before we start talking about rewarding them."

Astoria Boulevard is one of Queens busiest streets for motor vehicles, a recipe for danger in the mostly transit-dependent neighborhoods it traverses. Since 2011, four people have been killed on the road and hundreds more injured, according to city data on Crashmapper. The city has only done piecemeal improvements on the street — and nothing as significant as the comprehensive redesign proposed by Constantinides.

"I live near Astoria Boulevard," Constantinides said in an interview Friday morning. "Robert Moses … constructed this street to function more as an off-shoot of the Grand Central Parkway, not a street where people live. You have these multi-throngs of traffic that make it very difficult if you have a stroller, if you’re cycling, if you’re on a scooter, if you're on an e-bike."

But constructing more parking spots for the 114th Precinct may have the adverse impact of encouraging even more officers to drive, according to parking expert Rachel Weinberger, whose research has shown the the availability of parking at a particular location has an exponential effect on the number of people driving to that location.

"Accommodating cars just winds up with more traffic and puts you in this viscous cycle of car dependence," Weinberger told Streetsblog.

Instead, she suggested the precinct take a comprehensive look at where its officers are coming from and how they get there.

"Everybody in New York has that same problem: 'How do I get to work?'" she said. "They should take the subway. They should carpool."

For his part, Constantinides framed his proposal as part of an "all of the above" strategy. It's not just officers' personal vehicles crowding sidewalks, he said, but also police cruisers and cars confiscated after collisions or other violations. Constantinides said his Twitter feed is flooded daily with photos of the illegal parking, and pointed to his support for reform.

"Look, placard abuse is a real issue," he said. "I speak to the de Blasio administration about what can be done, but while we’re having this short-term conversation with the mayor on how to fix this issue, I want to come up with a long-term solution.

“Getting those cars off the street and into a multi-level garage, I think, is a good use of space," he added.

Constantinides is rumored to be mulling a run for Queens Borough President in 2021.

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