2016-05-18 / Front Page

Straight Talk

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO


Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas introduced a panel of at least 20 government agency representatives during her and United Community Civic Association’s (UCCA) Town Hall. Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas described a town hall meeting as an essential part of the democratic process. The town hall she jointly sponsored with the United Civic Community Association (UCCA) was, she said, an opportunity “to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth.” 
Photo Jason D. Antos Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas introduced a panel of at least 20 government agency representatives during her and United Community Civic Association’s (UCCA) Town Hall. Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas described a town hall meeting as an essential part of the democratic process. The town hall she jointly sponsored with the United Civic Community Association (UCCA) was, she said, an opportunity “to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth.” Photo Jason D. Antos Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas described a town hall meeting as an essential part of the democratic process. The town hall she jointly sponsored with the United Civic Community Association (UCCA) was, she said, an opportunity “to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth.”

A panel of at least 20 government agency representatives, Simotas and Councilman Costa Constantinides were on the stage at the Museum of the Moving Image on May 12 to address “whatever concerns and issues you have,” said UCCA President and town hall moderator Rose Marie Poveromo.


UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo spoke before the panel about civic issues. 
Photos Jason D. Antos UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo spoke before the panel about civic issues. Photos Jason D. Antos Concerns with traffic issues dominated the discourse early on during the three-hour question and answer format.

“The chaos is extraordinary, something has to be done,” said Gazette Publisher/Editor Tony Barsamian about traffic conditions at 31st Street and Astoria Boulevard with the evening’s opening question.

Queens Department of Transportation (DOT) Deputy Borough Commissioner Albert Silvestri took the question, the first of several sharp inquiries directed at DOT.

“Our intention was to avoid sideswipes for vehicles making the right up 31st Street,” he said, suggesting an adjustment to the traffic signal timing might help.


Barsamian asks the panel about traffic conditions at 31st Street and Astoria Boulevard. 
Gazette Publisher/Editor Tony Barsamian asks the panel about traffic conditions at 31st Street and Astoria Boulevard. Gazette Publisher/Editor Tony “We want a long-term fix,” said Barsamian. “Can we get DOT people to help?” he asked noting police did not have the resources to manage traffic at the location.

“We don’t have traffic managers at DOT,” replied Silvestri. “At the end of the day it’s an engineering (issue),” he said. “I wish I had a better answer for you, but we’ll continue to look into this.”

In rapid succession, Silvestri fielded a half-dozen additional questions from residents, including one from the Astoria Heights Homeowners and Tenants Association about illegal bus and truck traffic on 43rd Street, residents at Crescent Street and Queens Plaza North about continuous horn honking from Queensboro Bridge traffic, a resident along the Q56 route about speeding buses, and from another regarding accidents resulting from the construction of a bicycle corral at 39th Avenue and 29th Street.

There was also an extended complaint from a Shore Tower resident about the impending change to make Shore Boulevard one-way.

“People didn’t feel comfortable crossing Shore (Boulevard) to get to the waterfront,” said Silvestri, adding, “we are committed to working with the community (and) we’re not going to close the book on this.”

“If the (one-way) solution doesn’t work it isn’t set in stone,” said Simotas. “We have to see what happens.”

“The streets around Astoria Park have seen a number of fatalities and a number of accidents,” said Constantinides. “Something had to be done.”

Queens Director of City Planning John Young, in response to a question regarding overdevelopment, said, “New York City is growing faster than previously,” and noting a recent U.S. Census estimate, said the city’s population is now at 8.5 million. “That’s a record,” he said.

“Overdevelopment has pushed out community residents (and) the rents are obscene,” said Poveromo. “Where are these people going (to live)?” she said. “This is disgraceful that people, the old and the sick are being pushed out.”

Young said that the ZQA (Zoning for Quality and Affordability) amendment to the zoning code was passed to encourage developers to build senior housing.

Constantinides said ZQA would provide housing for 20,000 seniors in his Council District 22 alone.

“We have a serious affordability crisis (and) you should be able to live in your neighborhood as long as you like,” he said. “We have to make sure that we preserve the ability for people to stay in our neighborhood.”

In response to a question Department of Sanitation (DOS) Community Affairs Officer, Ignacio Terranova confirmed Sanitation is looking at plans to move the Queens West District 1 garage now located at 34-28 21st Street.

“The garage is falling down,” he said acknowledging DOS is looking at a site on 20th Ave. “We are looking at 20th Ave. and other sites,” he said. “We’re just now starting with the whole process, there’s no more room at 21st Street.”

Constantinides said the site selection process has to go through a full city review.

“We will have the ability to shape whatever plan (DOS) comes up with,” he said, adding, “As of today, I’m not convinced 20th Avenue is the right place.”

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