Borough president holds first series of town halls in Astoria

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards hosts town hall to hear from western Queens residents. (Photo courtesy of Julia Moro)

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the Boys and Girls Club in Astoria to address issues impacting the residents of northwest Queens.

This was the first town hall in a series of meetings to address regional issues around the borough. Richards invited the Department of Transportation (DOT), Parks and Recreation, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and others to update the community on projects or support services available to them.

Brian Honan, the vice president of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations in NYCHA, alerted the community to the $1.2 trillion American Jobs Plan that would allocate $80 billion for public housing. 

Honan said this money would be instrumental in updating their buildings. 

“The bill we’re talking about now, would for the first time in the history of NYCHA, get us comprehensive rehabilitation,” Honan said. “Getting inside people’s apartments, replacing their kitchens and bathrooms and upgrading their apartments.”

Richards added that this bill would also give boroughs an individual allocation and require transparent reporting of money spent.

“We will know how NYCHA is spending our money, and how efficient and effective that money is being spent,” Richards said.

Residents were able to ask questions for the borough president or city agency representatives, which mainly focused on quality-of-life issues.

One resident asked about DOT’s citywide proposal to remove sidewalk cafe regulations in order to continue expanded outdoor dining. 

The Queens Borough Commissioner of DOT, Nicole Garcia, clarified that the agency is going around to every community board meeting to present the plan and include the local governments in this transition.

Another question was directed at Garcia regarding staggered lights at the exit of Grand Central Parkways toward the entrance of the RFK bridge. 

“When we come off the Grand Central, there are people that are crisscrossing at the same time,” one resident said. “It’s so dangerous.”

Representatives from DOT said they had staggered the lights in that area to prevent a flow of traffic crossing lanes in the short distance. DOT also said they could conduct another study to survey the area, which typically takes three months.

The meeting was aired live on Queens Public Television Wednesday, and can be viewed on Vimeo.