Eco dock on Astoria waterfront, changes to Steinway Street top Astoria councilman’s agenda

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

Councilman Costa Constantinides outlined his vision for Astoria in his State of the District speech on Jan. 31 and it included some big projects, such as an eco dock to connect people to the waterfront and changes to Steinway Street, which has seen a large number of traffic injuries.

Constantinides announced his plan to construct an eco dock on Hallets Peninsula in 2015. The dock, which is currently in the design phase, would replace a rotting pier off of Vernon Boulevard and also allow for nearby students to study marine wildlife and environmental science.

The current pier was constructed in the 1950s but has not been used for decades because of its dilapidated state. Funding for the eco dock has been provided by the councilman, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio. A total of $5 million has been allocated for the project, which will also include shaded seating and boat storage.

According to the councilman’s office, the dock is tentatively scheduled to be built by 2019. Eco docks are resilient during storms and are built on pylons so that the dock moves with the tide.

“This will, after more than 80 years, return waterfront access to the residents of Astoria,” Constantinides said.

Also included in his plans are steps to transform Steinway Street into a safer thoroughfare for drivers and pedestrians and make it a gateway to “the next great meeting space in western Queens.”

“Steinway Street has long been the beating commercial heart of Astoria,” he said. “As you traverse it from 34th Avenue to Astoria Boulevard and beyond you see people from all walks of life mingling as they frequent a wide variety of establishments from big name-brand stores, salons, and restaurants from all corners of the globe.”

But the thoroughfare has also been the scene of 249 traffic-related injuries and 95 pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Part of the problem, Constantinides said, is the configuration of the crosswalks. The blocks along the street are long, and many times pedestrians will cross in the middle of the street to reach a store instead of walking to the end of a block to reach a crosswalk.

“That’s why I am calling for the Department of Transportation to place mid-block crosswalks along Steinway Street,” Constantinides said. “I also believe that there are other traffic safety measures, including leading pedestrian intervals or LPIs, which need to be considered. These allow for a few extra seconds for pedestrians to cross before vehicles are cleared to go.”

Constantinides, who is also on the Environmental Protection Committee, said he wants to bring more public space in the area for people to “take in the hustle and bustle.” He cited Union and Madison Squares as examples that Astoria could imitate. He said he will form a community working group to discuss where a space like this can be created.

To conclude his speech, the councilman spoke about the city’s commitment to welcome everyone “regardless of where they come from or how they got here.”

“We all live in a prime example of how to make it work,” he said. “Astoria is a gorgeous mosaic that contains nearly every class, faith or race under the sun. So when the forces of regression spin their yarns about getting ‘government’ off our backs, or making America ‘great’ again, never forget what that means in practice.”

To read the entire speech, visit the councilman’s website.