2017-02-08 / Political Page

State Of The District

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO


Council Member Costa Constantinides delivering his annual State of the District Address. Council Member Costa Constantinides delivering his annual State of the District Address. Council Member Costa Constantinides thought he knew what he would say in his State of the District speech.

“Each year I’ve been in office, I have hosted one of these events to update the community on what I have been working on in the Council and in Astoria,” he said at his 2017 State of the District address delivered at IS 126 on January 31.

“However, something happened to change the way that I wanted to present this speech,” he said. “2016 was a complicated year.” With a contentious presidential campaign, election, and events deepening the political divide, he said, “It has been ugly. But now, in the New Year, we have a chance to reaffirm our shared values.” This speech would be not only about the good work accomplished in the neighborhood but also about “who we are as a community.”

“This city is welcome to everyone, regardless of where they come from or how they got here. It is welcome to everyone, regardless of their orientation or gender identity – there will never be a bathroom bill in New York City. It is welcome to everyone, no matter what religion they practice, or if they practice no religion at all,” he said. “New York will be the ‘World’s City,’ as surely as Queens is the World’s Borough. Anyone may call it home.”

Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, Constantinides had five bills passed in the City Council in 2016, most notably, increasing the amount of biofuel used in home heating oil and bringing more electric car charging stations to the City. Constantinides was again awarded a perfect score of 100 by the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV), a non-profit that annually evaluates the environmental voting record of City Council members.

“We must ensure that the next generation understands the seriousness of climate change,” he said. “If we can accomplish this, then we can trust that they will continue to protect this planet for themselves and for generations to come.”

Concerning power plants, Constantinides said, “Communities with power plants have the worst air quality, and could be at greater risk of respiratory illness,” encouraging a quicker phase-out of No. 4 fuel oil and proposing an Environmental Justice Act in the Council to create a low-carbon standard for new buildings. He said that these policies would help combat the effects of climate change and protect the community’s future generations.

One million dollars of discretionary funding will again be spent this year on projects decided by residents in the participatory budget vote. Constantinides has obtained almost $4.5 million over three years for improvements to neighborhood parks with another $30 million allocated by the Mayor for renovations and construction in Astoria Park including a new soccer field.

“I strongly encourage everyone to come out and vote,” he said.

Regarding public safety, Astoria “remains a safe and secure place to live,” he said, thanking the “hardworking men and women of NYPD.”

Looking ahead, Constantinides proposed a “comprehensive reinvestment in Steinway Street that ensures our neighborhood’s hub continues to thrive in the 21st century,” including a call for more public space. He discussed his plan for reinvesting in Steinway Street to make it safer and more conducive to commerce. He proposed midblock crossings for pedestrians and shoppers, Leading Pedestrian Intervals to give them extra time to cross the street, and creating a public space for relaxation and gathering with friends. As there is no such dedicated space on Steinway Street, Constantinides will work with local stakeholders to create a community working group that will discuss where to create one.

Constantinides also discussed his plan for improving more parks and green spaces. He has shepherded over half of his district’s parks through securing funding and breaking ground on renovations. He pledged to secure funding for the remaining parks or playgrounds over the next few years.

He also asked the state to repeal vacancy decontrol, noting, “There is nothing gained when the rent becomes so high that the people that give a neighborhood its character are forced to leave.”

Constantinides, up for reelection in November, concluded, “Our streets are cleaner. Our neighborhood is more beautiful. Our roads are safer. Our hospital is more modern. Our parks are better suited to serve our community. Our power is greener. Our air is cleaner. We have achieved so much in these three years and there is still so much more that I want to accomplish. With fortitude and determination, together, we can make those ideas a reality.”

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