By Bill Parry
The first phase of the Steinway Street improvement plan will soon be implemented as the city’s Department of Transportation plans to install three mid-block crosswalks and traffic signals between 30th and 34th avenues.
The enhancements will improve safety for thousands of people who shop in the commercial heart of Astoria every day, and they are part of an extreme makeover proposed by City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) last year that would not only improve safety but enhance commerce.
“These traffic mitigation measures will greatly improve the Steinway Street experience for pedestrians, shoppers, and small business owners,” Constantinides said. “If the street is safer and easier to cross, shoppers will be able to walk between stores more safely.”
There are currently no mid-block crossings along Steinway Street, where blocks can stretch up to 1,000 feet long. A shopper who wants to cross between two stores mid-block by using the crosswalks at the end of the block would have to walk over 500 feet to reach the nearest crosswalk.
While observing the commercial strip, DOT counted hundreds of pedestrians crossing mid-block. The addition of the new mid-block crosswalks will calm car traffic and provide additional opportunities for shoppers and pedestrians to walk between stores.
“Steinway Street is on its way to becoming a safer, more inviting street for everyone, thanks to the leadership of Council member Constantinides and the advocacy of the Steinway Astoria Partnership,” DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said. “New signalized crosswalks, markings, signs, and other treatments at key points shorten the distances between crossings, making it easier for pedestrians of all ages to cross safely, shop and explore one of the borough’s most vibrant and exciting commercial corridors.”
Marie Torniali, the executive director of the Steinway Astoria Partnership and the chairwoman of Community Board 1, said the improvements will help boost business at the 300 stores and restaurants along the thoroughfare.
“The blocks on Steinway are easily the length of two city blocks and walking to either end is a chore,” she said. “An added bonus will be that shoppers will most likely visit more businesses that they might otherwise overlook, which will be an aid to our small business community.”
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) was encouraged that Constantinides’ plan was so well received by the DOT.
This is a case study in how government ought to work — for the benefit of community residents and businesses alike,” she said.
The DOT presented a separate plan to change a number of streets between the Astoria Houses and the Welling Court area. The agency will overhaul the intersections of Vernon Boulevard, 30th Avenue, 8th Street and Astoria Boulevard.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation requested the improvements to better ferry access from the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The plan will add five new curb extensions to reduce distances for pedestrians to cross, and it would convert Main Avenue between 8th Street and 30th Avenue into a one-way street eastbound.
CB1 vote unanimously to approve the plan last week.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr