Tag Archives: 21st Street

Safety improvements unveiled at ‘deadly’ Astoria intersection


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DOT

A two-mile-long Astoria thoroughfare that has seen five fatalities and seven severe injuries between 2009 and 2013 has just gotten safer for pedestrians.

Representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) joined local elected officials and residents Friday morning to unveil corridor safety improvements for 21st Street between Hoyt Avenue South and Queens Plaza.

“We launched Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative in Queens over a year ago and every day we see the difference these safety project have throughout the ‘World’s Borough,’ from 21st Street to Queens Boulevard and beyond,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The Astoria corridor, which is also a truck route, is made of a 60-foot-wide road with two travel lanes in each direction.

The safety improvements, which are part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, include adding a new pedestrian crossing at 29th Avenue through a new traffic signal; upgrading existing street lights to LED lights and adding more street lights on 21st Street to improve visibility; adding parking lane stripes along the street to define moving lines; and adding 12 painted curb extensions along the corridor to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians at nine intersections.

“For far too long, 21st Street has been known as a deadly speedway and the improvements we are introducing will help put an end to the reckless driving that has claimed too many lives,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.

Earlier this year, DOT also installed seven-second Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), which give pedestrian-only walk time before vehicles get a green light, at 10 intersections on 21st Street.

“This thoroughfare has long been notorious for pedestrian fatalities. Cars frequently travel above the speed limit and there have been several deaths due to car accidents on the street over the last decade,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides. “These Vision Zero improvements will make the street, home to major senior and youth developments, safer for pedestrians and drivers from across the community.”

Image courtesy of DOT

Image courtesy of DOT

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Astoria community farm brings fresh, organic produce to backyards and roofs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Anna Poaster/Rob McGrath

What in front looks like a regular apartment building off 21st Street in Astoria is actually home to a backyard community farm looking to grow beyond its original space and help educate others about growing their own food.

Hellgate Farm started in 2011 after Rob McGarth, an engineer by trade, purchased a building with a very large backyard. Once he started to grow his own food, he realized he was growing more than he could use.

For the first couple of seasons, McGarth managed the farm on his own and later teamed up with The Queens Kickshaw, located at 40-17 Broadway, to set up a pop-up farm stand in front of the store. 

What began as a side project for him then turned into something he wanted to focus more attention on and, by the fall of 2012, Anna Poaster came in as manager of the farm with a focus on growing vegetables. 

HellgateFood

The following year, a neighbor allowed the farm to expand into his yard. This got the team thinking about finding landowners in the Astoria and Long Island City area willing to allow them to go in and use backyard space to grow produce. In 2014, another neighbor around the block from the farm offered their space.

Now, Hellgate Farm has a total of four sites, including the original in McGrath’s backyard. One is on a rooftop of a Long Island City business. The growing of the sites then pushed the team to become a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), meaning landowners or “members” who offer their land to grow a farm/garden would receive a share of produce every week.

In its first year as a CSA, Hellgate Farm will work with landowners to grow organic vegetables and fruits and turn their underutilized backyards and rooftops into valuable garden space. In exchange for the work and care of the spaces, Hellgate Farm just asks landowners to pay for materials such as soil.

“I think people are really removed from their food, people don’t know what broccoli looks like when it grows,” Poaster said. “People are really into local foods. We are able to engage all these building owners who maybe have an interest in food, green space, and just making their space better for tenants and they really end up gaining a lot of education of what it is like to grow a garden.”

This year, Hellgate Farm plans to expand to two or three more gardens, with an emphasis on continuing to have open and personal communication with landowners.

Together with growing vegetables at the original site, Hellgate Farm also raises chickens, houses bees on the rooftop working with local beekeeper Tom Wilk, and has a garden on the roof as well. They have also partnered with local shops such as Astor Bake Shop and Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar to provide them with local fresh produce.

Manager Anna Poaster, Hellgate Farm Founder Rob McGrath, and intern Eric Dittmore. (Photo by Paul Miller)

Manager Anna Poaster, Hellgate Farm Founder Rob McGrath, and intern Eric Dittmore. (Photo by Paul Miller)

As the Hellgate Farm team, now consisting of volunteers and a live-in intern, gets ready for the 2015 season they have also turned to Kickstarter in hopes of raising a goal of $1,500 to purchase an electric wood chipper. The campaign has raised $420 since Monday.

The wood chipper would be used to turn the leaves and branches they remove during trimming and pruning the spaces into mulch that would be used on all the sites.

“It feels awesome. It really has been humbling to see how many people care about this thing,” Poaster said. “To see a lot of supporters is really touching.”

A lot goes into finding a site to convert into a farm or garden, according to Poaster, but they are open to finding more locations in the Astoria and LIC area. Hellgate Farm’s season goes from the beginning of June until the last week of October.

For more information visit hellgatefarm.com or email eric@hellgatefarm.com. To donate to the Kickstarter campaign, click here.

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Man beats roommate to death with hammer inside luxury Astoria apartment: NYPD


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Wednesday, Jan.14, 4:28 p.m.

An Astoria man claimed he had to kill his roommate after the lawyer tied him up and tried to force him at gunpoint to liquidate his stocks, according to published reports.

Quentin Capobianco, 18, told police that Jesse Smith, 29, restrained him with zip ties on Jan. 12 and ordered him to liquidate the stocks with a shotgun pointed to his head, reports said.

According to the New York Post, Capobianco was confronting Smith over money he owed him for apartment damages.

Capobianco managed to escape from his ties, and grab a hammer and use it to strike Smith repeatedly in the head, reports said.

Police found the victim, Jesse Smith, at his home inside the Exo Apartments, a luxury building on 21st Street near Astoria Boulevard, about 3:30 p.m. with severe trauma to his head, authorities said. Smith was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he died.

Capobianco was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon with intent to use, police said. The hammer, as well as a shotgun, were recovered at the scene.

Smith, a lawyer, worked at the Forest Hills firm Morton Povman, PC, according to published reports, and a LinkedIn account for Capobianco lists him as paralegal for the attorney.

He was also in business with Smith, running a currency exchange operation involving Bitcoin, a form of digital money, according to DNAinfo.

Capobianco was arraigned on Jan. 13 in Queens Criminal Court, where was held on $250,000 bond, the district attorney’s office said. His next court date is Jan. 30.

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MTA to begin weekend bus trial expanding service along Vernon Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

DSC_11092

Starting this weekend, residents and visitors will have better access to the western Queens waterfront.

The Q103 bus line, which connects Astoria and Long Island City via Vernon Boulevard, will offer service to riders on weekends, starting Sunday and operate later on weekday evenings, according to the MTA.

In April, the transit agency said the schedule update would serve as a trial program, and it would receive comments from the community at an MTA public hearing to be scheduled at a later date. After the public hearing, a decision will be made to keep the service or not. It has not been determined how long the trial program will run.

“This announcement is a milestone for all of us who fought for years to get proper bus service for the growing communities of Astoria and Long Island City,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who has been calling for the extra service on the bus line since 2011. “I am thrilled the MTA is finally realizing western Queens’ need for increased mass transit is real and pressing.”

Gianaris is also urging the MTA to make the Q103 expansion changes permanent.

The weekend service will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and, in addition, the Q103 will also extend its weekday service hours until 9 p.m., instead of 7:30 p.m. The travel path and bus stops will not be affected, the MTA previously said.

“These enhancements were all a result of listening to our customers and keeping close watch on changing ridership trends,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.

Local leaders and business owners see the need to expand the Q103’s service as crucial to the growing neighborhoods.

“It is a positive step in improving transportation options in our neighborhood,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The Vernon Boulevard corridor has been one of the more under-served transit thoroughfares in western Queens. Increasing bus service would be a vital resource to commuters traveling to Manhattan and to residents connecting from Astoria to Long Island City.”

According to officials, the Q103 ridership has been increasing in the past years, rising from 558 riders per day in 2011 to about 790 in 2014.

The MTA has also announced that this Sunday the Q19 will extend its western last stop from Astoria Boulevard and 21st Street to the East River waterfront at 27th Avenue and 2nd Street.

The Q102 will then also remain on 30th Avenue between Crescent Street and 8th Street, according to the MTA, with the stops on Crescent Street, Newtown Avenue and Astoria Boulevard to be relocated to 30th Avenue. All bus stops along Astoria Boulevard will instead be served by the Q19.

For more information visit www.mta.info.

 

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