By Rebecca Henely
While the visitors to Community Board 1 heard passionate arguments for and against a proposal to close part of Newtown Avenue near 30th Avenue and 33rd Street to create a plaza, the board voted overwhelmingly against the plan.
The city Department of Transportation had presented two plans for slowing traffic at the intersection, the site of 49 crashes between 2006 and 2010. One of the plans involved installing a 4,700-square-foot pedestrian plaza on Newtown Avenue near the intersection, which would cost $75,000 but get rid of four or more parking spaces.
An alternate plan would extend the curbs on both sides of Newtown Avenue near 30th Avenue and on the southwest side of the intersection of 30th Avenue and 33rd Street for $400,000.
After a contentious debate among residents and business owners who filled one of the rooms at Astoria World Manor, at 25-22 Astoria Blvd., CB 1 voted 25-7 against the plaza.
The mere seven votes for the plaza prompted shouts of “Shameful! Shameful!” from pro-plaza visitors while the 25 votes against received applause from those against it.
“This street closure and loss of parking places will not only eliminate easy access to the front of our store, but threaten our economic viability,” said Tom Anderson, who spoke on behalf of the Key Food supermarket at the intersection.
The decision was a disappointment to residents who had wanted an open space and what the DOT had said would be the plan that would lead to fewer accidents at the complicated five-way crossroads.
“I walk down this intersection every day and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been hit,” said resident Alex Barclay.
Residents and business owners had argued that taking away so many parking spots would have an economic impact on the stores in the neighborhood and closing the streets would increase congestion. Some argued that sanitation trucks would not be able to navigate 32nd Street if they could not use Newtown Avenue.
A representative from Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital also worried that the clinic the hospital is planning to open, at 31-19 Newtown Ave., would limit patient access.
“Our concern at this point is we may not have all the facts,” said Brad Beckstrom, of Mt. Sinai.
Others contended the neighborhood already had the resources the plaza offers.
“I’ve been a resident of Astoria all my life,” said Yiannis Strovmbakis, of Alma Bank. “There’s plenty of parks people can go to and plenty of cafés.”
But advocates argued that sidewalk cafés were not an appropriate resting place for young children.
“It is more important to have a place where children can play than a dangerous intersection where their lives are at risk,” said resident Michael Hicks.
Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy said some members of CB 1 approached her to do the plaza as a pilot project, but otherwise the curbs would be extended.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.