2015-10-07 / Editorials

Keep Shore Boulevard Open For All The People

BY ANTONIO MELONI

Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park is probably one of the jewels of the city, certainly of Queens and more specifically Astoria. The view is incomparable and available to all. Probably 80 percent of the people who come to visit Astoria Park and Shore Boulevard, the playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, running track and just the grassy expanses, come by car. Yet some people want to close it, without any community input, because, as they put it to the DOT in a recent letter, there are serious problems with Shore Boulevard. I’m going to try to paraphrase the reasons given to the Commissioner and my heartfelt response to the same issue. I write this not as a civic leader or Community Board member but simply an Astorian that uses the park daily.

Pimps and prostitutes; drag racing; drug use; noisy, smelly idling cars…this was basically the list that constituted the argument for closing the boulevard to cars. I read these nonsensical “reasons” and took exception to their veracity. Drag racing? Nope, the most you’ll see is occasional “donuts” on motorcycles/cars. Thankfully, the speed bumps have taken care of speedsters. Prostitution and pimps – really? Show me the hundreds, dozens, or any, arrests for pimping and prostitution. Drug use, yeah, there has always been smoking and drinking by individuals; but rampant and continuous, not even close. Percentage-wise, it’s absolutely minimal; the overwhelming majority of park users are law-abiding. Lastly, if cars are that noisy or smelly, enforce the three-minute anti-idling law.

I’m there about five times a day because I’m lucky enough to live within two blocks of the park. I use it in its many iterations. I walk there many mornings, on Shore and around the track and 19th Street. I ride my bike there a couple of times a week, walk my dog every night and drive by in my car at least three to five times a day. The car drivin’ and cruisin’ – it’s just one of those things people like to do. It’s calming and invigorating at the same time; the view, the greenery, the water, the relaxed people enjoying a bit of nature, all combine to make it a unique and pleasant experience, especially in a city as busy as ours. As my friend John, a daily visitor to Shore, likes to say “we’re all enjoying our little bit of Heaven.” To close it because of what sound like manufactured reasons seems like a true crime against the regular users of the park, who live both near and far. As a matter of fact, if this area is so dangerous, shouldn’t the first line of defense be trying to fight this “crime wave” that we’re told is one of the main reasons for closing down this iconic stretch of road? All of the preceding issues listed are crimes or violations that are against the law already, so why not ticket the offenders and leave the rest of us alone. I absolutely abhor the “Chicken Little Syndrome” that so many use to get unpopular or ridiculous items passed. By the way, the cops understand this better than anybody; when you do close this stretch, these issues will just move to nearby residential streets and if you think you’ve got problems now…

Now, allow me to list why we should keep it open and available to all: seniors with beach chairs, ready access for the handicapped, mothers, fathers and grandparents with strollers, kids with trikes and skateboards, ice cream trucks, sunbathers, people who come to and sponsor events like the fireworks, the concerts, the movies, the bands, the older Greek and Italian men and Indian women doing their daily park walk, the art shows, the cleanups, ethnic affairs and celebrations, Native American dancers etc., basketball players, classic cars, sports cars, wedding parties, graduation celebrations, quinceaƱeras, veterans’ ceremonies, and swimmers in the pool programs.

The list is varied and endless, a testament to the grand vitality and utilization of this park and boulevard. All of these people use Shore Boulevard daily and consistently. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of regular park users, not criminals, who come with their cars to avail themselves of this gem seasonally. Speaking of cars, Shore Boulevard now has 135 parking spaces that would be lost to all if this knee-jerk proposal were to pass, and for what?

Right now I enjoy the occasional closing of Shore for particular events such as the Astoria Civic Bike race, the Green Shores and Astoria Park Alliance Fests, the beautiful Central Astoria Fireworks, the citywide Bike Tours. All of these are a lot of fun and great diversion. Closing it for 365 days a year would be just the opposite; it would be a desolate, woefully underutilized area in comparison to today. Technically, I should be happy if they close it, because I live so close, it would be “my” park; but that sounds insular at best and elitist at worst to say let’s keep it only for locals and basically for the ones lucky enough to live within walking distance. I have to give credit to our Parks Department personnel for maintaining the park in good condition even with all the use; but you can see the Parks personnel getting cut down if Shore ever closed. As for the One Way proposal; no way, it’s just confusion waiting to happen, it’s a definite non-starter; at least you can go around the lousy drivers now; you couldn’t if it became one lane only. The parking lot is great for what it is but cannot replace Shore Boulevard. Another often-overlooked but important factor is that there are usually emergency and law enforcement personnel who use this thoroughfare regularly, the TBTA police; Amtrak Police, regular NYPD, Fire Department and Con Edison personnel. Of course EMS is regularly parked at the Veterans Monument because of the ease of reaching varied spots in Astoria from this location.

Lastly, please go on Change.Org and sign the “Keep Shore Boulevard Open” petition, begun by Peter, a long time Astorian and park goer, which has garnered over a thousand signatures already. Read the heartfelt reasons all these individuals have written and understand our fight clearly.

Please leave our “Miracle Mile” – the Shore – alone. Leave it open for all the people.

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