Constantinides reveals plans for a more accessible Queens

Photo credit: Angélica Acevedo

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who is running for borough president, revealed his plans for a more accessible Queens during a press conference in front of the Hunters Point Library on Tuesday.

“We’re here today to say that we want to get things right the first time,” Constantinides told QNS. “Too often we spend city capital dollars without asking, ‘Are these spaces accessible? Are all of our friends and neighbors able to enjoy them?’”

The Astoria native said that as borough president, he would have a “borough-wide accessibility coordinator” who would be in charge of talking about issues like accessibility on a consistent basis.

Constantinides used the Hunters Point Library in Long Island City — which was stalled for almost two decades but opened its doors in September — as an example of developments that are not suitable for people with wheelchairs, seniors and parents with strollers.

The impressive building stands out for its modern design, featuring light brown wooden stairs that allow patrons to marvel at a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline and the East River.

Architect Steven Holl designed the interior “in ascending tiers,” according to CBS.

“I think that we should be talking about these issues in a larger way, we should be making sure city capital projects are being funded with accessibility in mind, and we should be holding the MTA accountable,” Constantinides said.

The councilman also mentioned the MTA’s lack of accessible train stations, and how the transit agency recently announced that it will be adding elevators to stations across the city, including Broadway Junction at the L and J/Z lines.

But Constantinides said that he and members of the community have asked the MTA for more wheelchair- and stroller-friendly train station entrances for years.

“Rather than retro-fitting, rather than having to go back and revisit these types of projects and saying, ‘How do we accommodate it?’ — It shouldn’t be a, ‘How do we accommodate?’ it should be a, ‘How do we make them get it right the first time?’” he said.

Constantinides was joined by community leaders and accessibility advocates during his press conference.

Edward Funches, founder and president of Inclusion Marketing and Advertisement Group Inc., said he trusts that Constantinides will work toward a more inclusive system.

“We’re not being included, that’s the problem,” Funches said. “We are never included when it comes to the decision-making. They think something is accessible because there’s a handicap sign, but it’s not.”

Funches, an advocate for those who are disabled, pointed at a motorized wheelchair and explained that it’s not at all the same as the manual one that he uses.

“They’ll look at a wheelchair and think it’s the same. We have motorized wheelchairs and we have manual wheelchairs, and the dimensions are completely different,” he said. “We just want to be included.”

Franklin Brooks, who uses a walker, agreed that it’s hard for people in wheelchairs and walkers to get around the subway system. The 67-year-old often commutes from Manhattan to Queens, where he goes to church.

“The main thing is as Constantinides says, when you do something, do it right,” Brooks said.

Constantinides thinks that if the city thinks about accessibility before developing projects and fixing MTA stations, it’ll save more money in the long run.

“That’s what I’m calling for today: just getting things right the first time so that we’re not constantly scrambling to come up with half-hearted solutions to deal with issues that should’ve been thought about in the very beginning,” he said.

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