By Bill Parry
Astoria Park has some of the best river views, and the most popular public swimming pool, in the entire city. It also has a problem with windblown trash.
Now, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) has a plan to tackle the problem. He’s allocated $200,000 from his discretionary fund to expand cleaning, weeding and graffiti-removal services for the park’s Shore Boulevard as well as Hoyt Avenue.
Constantinides said workers from The Doe Fund’s “Ready, Willing & Able” program, who are already cleaning Steinway Street, Ditmars Boulevard and 30th Avenue, will now attend to the park through November and again in the spring. Constantinides has made cleanliness along the streets surrounding, leading up to, and inside Astoria Park a priority.
“Since we began our Keep Astoria Clean campaign in 2014, our communities have seen a reduction in litter and improved overall street cleanliness,” Costantinides said. “I look forward to seeing this continue as we move forward with expansion of these services to Shore Boulevard, Hoyt Avenue and Astoria Park.”
The Doe Fund street cleaners, known as “The Men in Blue” for their brightly colored coveralls, are formerly homeless or incarcerated individuals who receive paid transitional work, educational services and sometimes shelter.
“All of us at The Doe Fund are honored to service the streets and sidewalks of District 22, one of New York City’s most vibrant and diverse communities,” Doe Fund Founder George McDonald said. “While choosing the ‘men in blue’ from Ready, Willing & Able, Councilmember Constantinides is doing more than just improving street cleanliness and safety for our neighbors in Astoria; he’s creating jobs for people who need them most and offering a life-changing opportunity to the men in our program and their families.”
Graffiti removal by the Queens Economic Development Corporation and the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition will also improve the neighborhood’s cleanliness. Constantinides designated over $21,000 for graffiti removal services by the QEDC and $37,500 to CALDC, part of which will be used for the existing graffiti clean-up campaign run by the group.
“Graffiti is a blight on our community; its removal is crucial to maintaining a pleasing environment in which to do business, shop and live,” CALDC President Marie Tornialli said. Constantinides added that “the men in blue” would also expand cleaning services to 21st Street, including the new curb extensions, as part of the 21st Street Traffic Safety Improvements announced in June.
“Our continued efforts to support residents and small businesses that are experiencing increased litter will have an intense impact on quality of life, both for members of our community and visitors to our neighborhoods,” Costantinides said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that two small Astoria Parks will receive upgrades as part of his $285 million Community Parks Initiative, a citywide program to improve underfunded parks in densely populated and growing neighborhoods. Playground Thirty Five at Steinway Street and 35th Avenue and Astoria Health Playground at 14th Street and 31st Avenue are due for capital improvements, added maintenance, and recreational programming, according to Constantinides.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr