By Mark Hallum
Cleaning up the streets of Astoria has become a heightened priority for City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who said the MTA’s closing of subway stations in his district has aggravated the litter problem.
Constantinides secured about $290,000 from the 2019 city budget to tackle garbage and graffiti that he deemed “crucial after the brutal effects of the MTA shutdowns,” although the councilman claims clean streets have been a priority since he took office in 2014.
“We waited eight long months as the 30th Avenue subway station underwent renovations, taking a severely negative toll on our residents, our shops and our restaurants,” Constantinides said. “By making our streets clean and welcoming thoroughfares, we’re sending a message to the entire city that Astoria is still the wonderful place it always has been.”
But while Constantinides is not blaming the construction on the stations itself for the pressing need for a cleanup effort, the recovery from the temporary loss of subway service to businesses in Astoria is something the funds will address through beautification, his office clarified.
“These varied funding streams for cleanups, increased garbage collection and general beautification are so crucial to keeping Astoria’s character as a family friendly community and keeping Astoria as a place people want to come to shop and eat out. Dirty streets and brimming garbage baskets send absolutely the wrong message,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said.
The 2019 budget also includes a $10,000 allocation to the city Department of Sanitation for additional garbage pickups along 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard.
“Graffiti is a blight on our entire community and sends a message that we don’t have pride in our neighborhood. This is obviously untrue of Astoria,” said Marie Torniali, executive director of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition.
The MTA is currently making structural and aesthetic renovations to the 39th Street station and the Broadway station of the N/W lines through Astoria.
And in October, the state agency began an eight-month shutdown of the 36th and 30th Ave. N/W stations to make structural repairs to the mezzanines, platforms and stairs.
“We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to perform significant structural repairs and renovations, improve accessibility, and renew and beautify how stations look, up and down the entire Astoria line,” an MTA spokesman said on Wednesday. “We’re incredibly proud of this work and our partnerships with local businesses to help promote them while stations are closed. The time and money we’re investing in Astoria now will keep local business strong and serve residents for generations to come.”
An elevator is being installed at the Astoria Boulevard station as well, according to the MTA, which said the new improved appearance to the stations will play a role in improving the quality of life in the neighborhood.
MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said the renovations were critical to upgrading not only the look of the community, whose members commuted through century-old stations, but also to making key safety improvements with rust taking its toll on structural parts of the elevated tracks along the corridor.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall