At his annual State of the District address last Thursday, Councilman Costa Constantinides announced that he will ask the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study of the 4.5-mile stretch of Astoria Boulevard from the Triboro Bridge to Citi Field.
Constantinides said he wants the agency to take a “holistic approach” that considers all modes of transportation, as well as developments around the community.
“Creating complete streets is so important because it gives more options that are better and safer for everyone,” he said.
DOT has already proposed a dedicated bike lane along the northern edges of Astoria to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the councilman said. He committed to supporting that proposal “if they think that’s the best way to go,” but he also wants to focus on fixing Astoria Boulevard.
“It may not work on every street,” Constantinides said, “but on the right street, a bike lane can help speed things up for everyone.”
A DOT spokesperson said the agency looks forward to working with the councilman about his concerns surrounding Astoria Boulevard.
In addition to potentially changing the streets, Constantinides called for constructing a new building for the 114th Precinct, which is located on the boulevard.
He noted that the precinct’s current home was built in 1967, and while it’s still functional it’s beginning to “show its age.”
“Sometimes the basement floods when it rains,” Constantinides said.
The councilman also proposed erecting a new multi-level parking garage for the precinct because officers' cars take up parking spots and block sidewalk space in the area, creating a “traffic nightmare.” His office has been fielding complaints about this problem for years.
“We cannot put the need for parking ahead of the need to keep our streets livable,” he said.
Constantinides also used the speech as an opportunity to lay out several environmental proposals. Last month, the councilman announced that six district schools will install solar panels on their rooftops over the next two years.
Now, he wants PS 2, where he delivered his address last week, to become the first school in the city to be redesigned as a “carbon neutral building.” The new facility would include renewable electric, heating and cooling systems.
“I want PS 2 to be the symbol of our borough’s resiliency,” Constantinides said, “of a greener Queens.”
Six more schools in District 22 received funding for hydroponic science labs this year, and the councilman announced that the remaining five schools will have the labs by fall 2020.
IS 141 will also get a new STEM lab, while PS 84 will soon open a renovated school yard.
Perhaps the boldest proposal Constantinides put out this year is a plan to close fossil fuel-based power plants. He has already introduced a bill that would direct the city to study replacing them with renewable sources like solar or wind.
“This is not some far-flung dream of a distant future,” he said. “This is within our grasp now, and we need to begin the transition away from these plants now.”
But last Thursday, the councilman revealed the next step of his plan: potentially building renewables on Rikers Island. With the prisons on the island closing in the next decade, Constantinides said Rikers will soon have 400 open acres.
After working with the CUNY Law School Center for Urban Environmental Reform and Professor Rebecca Bratspies, an Astoria resident, Constantinides said it’s possible to replace most power plants with renewable facilities on the island.
The councilman also wants to build a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility on Rikers, allowing the city to close the older sewage treatment plants in Queens and the Bronx.
By closing the power plants in Astoria, Constantinides said that would allow residents to “reclaim the waterfront” that has been off limits for generations.
“With this plan, we can look to a future where we may be able to return much of this shoreline to the people of Queens,” he said.