By Bill Parry
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) wants to make access to the East River possible where abandoned and dilapidated docks litter the shoreline. He is working with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to bring an Eco-Dock to the Hallets Point peninsula in the near future.
“The Eco-Dock will do three things,” Constantinides said. “It provides recreation and transportation on the water with 20-to-30 kayak slips and manpowered boats, but it has an educational component as well. We can get kids to interact with the water and learn biology, environmental sciences, chemistry and ecological systems. I’m excited about the possibilities right there at the foot of the Astoria Houses where right now there’s a rotting decrepit space.”
With an estimated cost of $4 million, the docks would be built on large pylons that allow the structure to float up and down with the tide. There is one in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn operated by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
“It’s one thing to read about marine life or ecosystems in a book, but it’s a whole other thing to have a chance to experience it firsthand,” Constantinides said.
The freshman councilman made access to Astoria’s considerable waterfront a big part of his state of the district address late last month.
“It’s time that we return to our roots and again connect with one of our greatest local resources, the East River.” he said. “There was a time in Astoria’s history where 120 years ago every road led down to the water. Over time it was all abandoned and neglected. Now it’s time to reclaim the waterfront and Eco-Dock will help us do that.”
The project would include the street level structure with shaded seating, open space, water access and boat storage, all without blocking views from the shoreline. The construction would be in three phases beginning with the removal of the dilapidated pier that was built in the 1950s.
The waterfront will provide transportation options for Astoria residents now that Mayor de Blasio plans on ferry service by 2017.
Access to the shoreline with the Eco-Dock project would go hand-in-hand with the long-awaited return of citywide ferry service, something proposed by Mayor de Blasio by 2017.
“Everything old is new again, and the rediscovery of our waterfront heritage shouldn’t stop with recreation – it should also include transportation,” Constantinides said in his speech, referring to the new ferry dock that is part of the agreement on the Astoria Cove building project. The city is committed to allocating $5 million for the project and Mayor de Blasio said service would begin in 2017.
Constantinides said more can be done to fulfill the regions transit needs.
“From the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the startups in Williamsburgh to the new developments in Long Island City, there’s already a critical mass of need along this tech corridor – and this need is only going to grow with Astoria Cove and the Cornell Technion Center,” he said. “Whether this project takes the shape of light rail, a bus rapid transit line, or something else is secondary. The growth of the East River Corridor has been one of the most transformative developments in our city’s recent history, and if that continues, we must ensure that our concept of mass transit in western Queens transforms with it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4538.