By Bill Parry
It wasn’t his divulgence that he lived for two years “in a bachelor pad” across from Riccardo’s by the Bridge on 24th Avenue, or that he met his wife Chirlane in Astoria, or that he swore that Othello’s Deli had the best spinach pie. Mayor Bill de Blasio won over most of the crowd at his town hall meeting last Wednesday at PS 90 in Astoria when he announced the city is planning to redesign Steinway Street.
“I know there’s been a lot of concerns about Steinway Street and making it a better environment for pedestrians,” de Blasio said. “The DOT will be creating a new design to make the Steinway Street corridor more pedestrian friendly and safe, and that plan will be brought to the community board next year.”
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the co-host of the town hall, had called for improvements “to the commercial beating heart of the neighborhood” in his State of the District speech in January, an initiative that was supported by community stakeholders in February. In 2016, 38 people, including 11 pedestrians, were injured in traffic incidents along Steinway Street between 28th and 35th Avenues, according to the DOT.
“Shoppers should be able to move easily and safely cross the street to travel between businesses,” Constantinides said. “Residents and small business will benefit from a Steinway streetscape that is safer and more conducive to commerce. The plan we proposed earlier this year includes traffic mitigation measures such as mid-block crossings and Leading Pedestrian Intervals. We look forward to working with the DOT and community stakeholders on this design.”
Constantinides is still pushing for a public gathering space to be included in the plan. Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) grew up near Steinway Street and used to shop along the strip with her mother.
“Anyone who lives in Astoria knows the lure of Steinway Street’s small businesses and restaurants,” she said. “Yet the street has untapped potential to become even more attractive to shoppers, to be safer for pedestrians and to be a welcoming destination for residents, whether they want to eat, shop or simply share a convivial cup of coffee with friends.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) called the redesign an important initiative and thanked the mayor for his support.
“Steinway Street is one of New York’s great shopping strips and is a central part of our Astoria community,” Gianaris said. “This proposal would make Steinway Street even better by creating safer street-crossing opportunities and a new outdoor space for shoppers to gather and enjoy the neighborhood together.”
The mayor also announced renovations at the Steinway Library would begin next spring, calling delays on the work “unacceptable.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr