New 30th Avenue Photo Exhibition Unveiled
On July 20, the Greater Astoria Historical Society held an event to unveil a new photo exhibition at its galleries on 25–20 Broadway, featuring the work of Astoria artist Annabel Short, entitled 30th Avenue: A Year in the Life of a Street. During 2011, Short has been interviewing one person a week who lives or works along 30th Avenue and is posting the interviews, with photographs at www.30thAve.org. Other participants in the program included Society Executive Director Bob Singleton, Frank Arcabascio of the 30th Avenue Business Association, 30th Avenue resident Melissa Rivera and Debbie Van Cura, Adjunct Professor of Urban Sociology at LaGuardia Community College.
Short, who originally hails from the United Kingdom moved to New York in 2007 when the non–profit she works for relocated.
Today she lives on 30th Drive (two streets up from 30th Avenue) with her husband Carlos Hiraldo, who works at LaGuardia Community College, and baby son Jack. Short soon realized that there were a lot of interesting stories to be told “right outside my doorstep”. One Sunday in 2010, when strolling with Jack through Astoria Park, it suddenly struck Short that she could interview one person a week with a connection to 30th Avenue and post the interviews on a Web site, so they would be immediately accessible to people for viewing and comments.
Singleton began the program by reading the minutes from a meeting of the Trustees of Astoria Village on November 4, 1850, where it was resolved that a new street, sixty feet wide, be designated as Grand Street. Apparently this kicked up something of a hornet’s nest with one property owner objecting because the new thoroughfare would run through his tree grove while others complained that they would be taxed for construction and maintenance that would largely benefit others.
Exasperated, the village trustees threatened legal action but how the issues were resolved was lost to history and the resolution itself was never voted on and made official. With 30th Avenue’s official status remaining in limbo for 161 years, Singleton proposed a new resolution designating 30th Avenue as a “dynamic city neighborhood with easy access to everything”, and “a place for creative people in search of a better life” to the resounding “Ayes” of those in attendance.
In a similar vain Van Cura said that “in an era when New York City is moving from smaller, diverse neighborhood scale stores to bland national chains and Disneyland theme park settings, streets like 30th Avenue remain successful because they represent our democratic ideals of openness, accessibility and civil discourse.
“We cannot go to shopping malls to learn our stories,” Van Cura noted, “30th Avenue is a place that matters because it is a place of shared memory, where we can come together to work, live and engage with one another.” Short said that over the time she had been engaged in the project she has learned to be always surprised and to hold no preconceptions. “I can never predict who will be happy to be or not to be interviewed for the site and, of course, what people will say when I talk with them.”