2008-04-30 / Features

New Step Street Beautifies Astoria Neighborhood

Before the step street project began, the north end of 32nd Street was a mound of rocks, weeds and dirt. Before the step street project began, the north end of 32nd Street was a mound of rocks, weeds and dirt. City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy and Department of Design and Construction Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane, P.E. announced on Thursday, April 24 the official completion of extensive reconstruction on 32nd Street between Astoria Boulevard North and 24th Avenue. The $4.7 million project started in early 2006 and was completed this winter, refurbishing a long-dilapidated stretch of road and transforming a neglected side street into a beautiful pedestrian path.

"I have always said Astoria is a small town in a large city, and our streets and walkways should reflect that, encouraging residents to walk from place to place," Vallone said. "This project has turned a terrible eyesore into a beautiful garden and path that our neighbors can feel proud of."

"A big part of what defines a neighborhood is the public space it offers for people to walk or to linger," said Sadik-Khan. "The transformation here in Astoria doesn't just clean up this space, it actually helps tie the neighborhood together, and it's a great example of the kind of initiatives we're taking to expand public space citywide and to build a public plaza in each community."

A landscaped walkway and staircase have replaced a littered, vermin-infested alley. A landscaped walkway and staircase have replaced a littered, vermin-infested alley. The road used to lead to a dead end near Astoria Boulevard, stopping at a littered and dirty alley. The DOT eliminated that dead end and opened the street to pedestrian traffic by creating a landscaped walkway and staircase. The path has also been landscaped with small trees and shrubbery that will make it more attractive in the spring.

The roads and the sidewalks along 32nd Street were also repaved, and banisters and bollards were erected to make the street safer. A stone wall was also added along the hill, replacing essentially a rat-infested mound that ran along a neighborhood parking lot. Before the step street was created, pedestrians had to trudge up that hill, creating an ugly and messy terrain that bothered residents.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (r.) stands with DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy and DDC Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane in front of the new step street on 32nd Street. City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (r.) stands with DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy and DDC Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane in front of the new step street on 32nd Street. For years, the local community called for this renovation because the former alley created a major public safety concern and health hazard, attracting rats and fostering illegal dumping. Community Board 1, for instance, long placed the roadway on its priority list of capital projects to complete. Some money had been budgeted for the work during the 1990s, but Vallone was able to secure approximately $1.1 million in additional funding to bring the project to fruition.

City and local officials are also excited about the project because step streets are uncommon in Queens, unlike The Bronx, where the terrain has more hills. Vallone is pleased to add another unique aspect to his neighborhood, one that will add to the character of Astoria.

"This is a neighborhood with many beautiful landmarks, and now we have another one," Vallone said. "I can't wait to take a walk down here."

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