Changes Proposed For Newtown And 30th Avenue Intersection
The triangle formed by Newtown and 30th Avenues in Astoria represents a historic exception to the ancient grid system of placing streets at right angles first proposed by the Greek architect and urban planner Hippodamian. A city Department of Transportation (DOT) “workshop on pedestrian safety and underutilized street space” presented two ideas to the public for the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection at the Community Board 1 meeting on June 5 at Astoria World Manor.
One idea is a long planned project for curb extensions as part of a school safety initiative for nearby P.S. 17. A second is a new proposal for a 4,700-square foot pedestrian plaza closing the intersection to traffic for one block going northwest.
“I support a small plaza, better signage [and] better timing [of traffic lights],” Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., stated, agreeing with local merchants who support another idea, the construction of a small, landscaped plaza that does not impede traffic. “There are other ways to make this a safer place,” he said. “There are some concerns by local businesses,” acknowledged Emily Weidenhof, presenting the proposal for the DOT. The Newtown Avenue public plaza could be built as early as this summer at an approximate cost of $75,000, according to the DOT, closing the intersection and losing seven parking spaces (three new spaces are created on 30th Avenue, but 10 are lost on Newtown Avenue). Newtown Avenue would also be converted to a two-way street to maintain driveway access for Key Food (via 32nd Street) and emergency access through the pedestrian plaza and to fire hydrants would be maintained in the plan.
DOT Division of Traffic and Planning New York City Plaza Program Director Vaidila Kungys said the intersection at Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue has “a very long history”. Only 11 percent of streets in Queens have more accidents,” Kungys said. Located at 28-37 29th St., P.S. 17 (Henry David Thoreau School) is one of 135 city schools that are part of the School Safety Program because of a high rate of accidents in the area. There were 49 accidents recorded at the Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue intersection from 2006 to 2010, according to the DOT.
The curb extensions proposed for the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection are “concrete foldouts” designed to “calm traffic” and increase safety by making crossings shorter while accommodating all vehicles, including trucks. The school safety project retains existing parking (nine spaces) and construction is planned for the spring of 2013 at a cost of $400,000.
“The [P.S. 17] School Safety Project is moving forward [but] it doesn’t leave much room for public gathering,” Kungys said, offering the plaza as an alternative. “Astoria lacks open space [and] there is a serious need.” The New York City Plaza Program, launched in 2008, is part of the city’s effort to ensure that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space. In 2009, the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Astoria at St. Demetrios applied to the plaza program for the Newtown–30th Avenue space. The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition (CALDC) would maintain the space.
Kungys said the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection was also well suited for a public plaza because it is well served by public transit, has “great retail” and a large population living in multi-family dwellings without any outdoor space.
“Athens Square [Park] is nearby but even so, Astoria is one of 10 [New York City] communities that lacks open space,” he said.