Avella, community leaders oppose pedestrian plaza proposal

By Madina Toure

State. Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and community leaders say they are against a pedestrian plaza proposed for the street across from the McGoldrick Library in Flushing.

In 2014, the Korean American Association of Queens applied to the city Department of Transportation to permanently close the street in front of the library on Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard and make a pedestrian plaza with tables and chairs.

The plaza would also be on Leonard Square, which honors Corporal William A. Leonard, a Flushing resident and World War I veteran.

Avella attended the trial street closure Friday, which he said he learned of only a day earlier and found that the area had too little pedestrian traffic to warrant a plaza and limited room to reroute traffic to avoid congestion.

“I only found out about this on Thursday and my first reaction was, ‘What idiot came up with this?’” he said during a news conference Monday afternoon.

He places the blame on the DOT and elected officials who support the proposal, saying they should know better than to support a plaza in an area with a lot of traffic and without sufficient community input.

He said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), one of the supporters of the proposal, should be “ashamed of herself.”

“I fault the city and I fault any elected official who tried to sneak this through,” he said.

Mike Favilla, Stavisky’s chief of staff, said the proposal does not concern Avella.

“Tony Avella has made more crazy allegations than Donald Trump and now he’s at it again,” Favilla said in a statement. “Considering that Tony only received 52 percent of the vote in his last primary, perhaps he should spend more time in his own district rather than looking for fights elsewhere.”

At the trial street closure last week, Stavisky and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said they were unaware of opposition to the proposal but that they would meet with community leaders to discuss it.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) supports the proposal as well.

“There were no complaints,” Stavisky said Friday. “It’s an opportunity for people to get together and celebrate their culture.”

Koo said there will always be noise and traffic in the area and that it a convenient location for elderly people.

“People are afraid of something new,” he said. “They live in their comfort zone.”

Jamison Moon, executive director of the Korean American Association of Queens, said the plaza would be an opportunity to use the space and that they could put a board or sign indicating the area’s historical significance.

He also said that they would work to clean up the space.

“Nobody sits here all day,” Moon said. “What’s the purpose of having a space that is not being recognized by anyone or being utilized by anyone?”

Andrew Ronan, a community coordinator for the DOT, said there was one public workshop on the proposal in April and that another one is planned for September. The proposal will be brought to Community Board 7 for a vote in September.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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