Tag Archives: Councilman Costa Constantinides

Astoria’s Trinity Lutheran Church to celebrate 125th anniversary with several events

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Betto Mares Yáñez

Astoria‘s Trinity Lutheran Church will hold a yearlong celebration to honor its 125 years of service to the community.

Councilman Costa Constantinides presented the church with a proclamation at the kickoff concert on Saturday, Oct. 3, where several classical pieces were performed, including three songs composed by Trinity member and Astoria-based composer Susan Stoderl.

Trinity Lutheran Church was founded in 1890 by German immigrants from Lower Manhattan. Services at the church were originally conducted in German, but changed to English in the 1920s.

According to its website, Trinity Lutheran Church’s members include people from Tanzania, Poland, Sierra Leone, Spain, Peru, Germany, Hungary, Israel, India, Egypt and more. To celebrate their diversity, the church will host a 125th anniversary dinner on Saturday, Dec. 5.

On Sunday, Nov. 22, Metropolitan New York Synod Bishop Robert Rimbo will preach at the 10:30 a.m. services in honor of the quasquicentennial. The celebration will end on Saturday, April 16, 2016, with a concert titled “Handbells and History of Trinity & Astoria/Long Island City.”

For more information on the events, visit the church’s website here.


Astoria dog run receives $1M in funding

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Costa Constantinides

Astoria’s four-legged friends will soon have a park to call their own.

Elected officials gathered under the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge last week to announce the allocation of $1 million to build an official dog park in the neighborhood. The park, which is currently a basketball court, will be located at Hoyt Avenue North between 23rd and 24th streets.

Councilman Costa Constantinides allocated $500,000 for the dog park after it received 773 votes from the community through participatory budgeting. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is also providing $500,000 for the construction from her discretionary capital funds.

“Building a new dog run will bring great benefits to the entire community,” Constantinides said. “This lot will be a designated place where dogs can play safely and share full enjoyment with their owners. I am especially proud to know that our residents selected this project through participatory budgeting and that the community showed support for it.”

Currently, Astoria residents can bring their dogs to Astoria Park during off-leash hours from 6 to 9 a.m. or to Bugsy’s Dog Run, an unofficial dog park that is administered by the Department of Environmental Protection. According to the Astoria Dog Owners Association website, the run is inadequate for several reasons. The space experiences frequent flooding, there is no fresh water source for dogs, and the fence enclosing the area is too low and has many holes.


According to a 2012 study conducted by the New York Economic Development Corporation, Astoria has one of the highest cat and dog ownership rates in Queens with 30,001 to 41,627 pets living in the neighborhood.

According to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, construction for projects such as this dog park take about a year and a half to begin and the Parks Department will hold meetings to receive suggestions on designs from the public.

Community Board 1, the Astoria Dog Owners Association and the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association will be in charge of cleaning and maintaining the park.

“In a borough of families, dogs are very much a part of many New York families’ lives,” Katz said. “The Astoria Dog Park will become the newest public treasure in the neighborhood offering a safe environment for families to enjoy with their four-legged family members.”


Woodside resident to seek Assembly seat and ‘fight for the middle class’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Barnwell

Brian Barnwell is looking to be the voice of a district he has called home all his life and one he says needs a big change and new leadership.

The 29-year-old Woodside resident and lawyer has announced that he will run next year for the seat in the state Assembly representing District 30, which covers the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Woodside, Middle Village and parts of Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City.

The seat is currently held by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who was first elected in 1998.

“I just feel like it’s time for a change. I feel like we need some new energy where people are going to go out and engage the community and bring the community voices into the conversation,” Barnwell said. “Everyone is getting pushed out. The teachers are being thrown under the bus. The students are being thrown under the bus. The middle class is just being destroyed and we can’t take it for granted anymore. So I want to be the voice of the middle class, because I am in the middle class.”

Barnwell’s desire to run for office was fueled recently when he began working as the director of special events for Councilman Costa Constantinides, and experienced many residents coming into the district office complaining about various issues – including affordable housing.

This made him realize that there needed to be a change and he would be that change.

The platform of his campaign will strongly focus on helping individuals in the middle class and those vying to move into the middle class. With being a member of the middle class himself, along with his family, Barnwell said he has personal experience with the issues constituents face.

“The middle class is what made this country great. It’s what makes any country great. If you don’t have a middle class, you’re in trouble,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell’s platform – focusing on taxes, education and affordable housing – includes issues such as lowering personal income and corporate taxes; helping raise minimum wage; empowering teachers, parents and administrators in local schools and creating new curriculum based on districts; building more schools; and increasing the amount of affordable housing in the developing area.

For now, Barnwell will stay at Constantinides’ office until September, then he will hit the streets and reach out to the communities to see what issues the residents are facing.

“I want people to tell me what’s wrong with this district,” Barnwell said. “You’ve got to lead. You’ve got to be a leader. This why we elect these people to be leaders, not followers, and I want to be a leader. I don’t want to be a follower.”

Barnwell will hold his first fundraiser on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at The Brewery NYC, located at 49-18 30th Ave. in Woodside.

For more information visit Barnwell’s Facebook page or follow @Barnwell2016 on Twitter.


Astoria street to be co-named after late community leader

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The dedication and hard work of one Astoria community leader, who passed away earlier this year, will live on in the neighborhood he helped flourish.

The City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would co-name streets throughout the city, including 30th Avenue between 30th and 29th streets, which will be named in honor of Dennis Syntilas, who died on Jan. 7.

Syntilas, 85, was a civic leader and community organizer in Astoria who helped bring the culture of Greece to Queens. He was the founder of the community-based organization Greek-American Homeowners Association, which helps connect Greek-Americans with government resources and promotes civic engagement.

“I am proud to honor Dennis Syntilas and his family with this street co-naming. His contributions to his community have been longstanding. Syntilas worked to improve Astoria by promoting Hellenic and Democratic values through his founding of Athens Square and the Greek-American Homeowners Association,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides, who co-sponsored the co-naming bill. “He is a great example of civic engagement and responsibility throughout our community. This recognition will forever commemorate his tireless work and contributions to our city.”

Syntilas was also one of the forces behind the creation of Athens Square Park on 30th Avenue, where the street will be co-named Dennis Syntilas Way. The park serves as a public space functioning as both a cultural center and recreational site with a playground, amphitheater and numerous sculptures of ancient Greek figures.

“If Dennis was with us today, he would be proud to see how well his dream has come to life. It is an honor to continue his legacy through the addition of Dennis Syntilas Way,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “He made so many sacrifices not just for this park but for our entire community and all the immigrants who made their way here over the decades.”


Councilman starts petition for traffic safety improvements surrounding Astoria Park

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Katrina Medoff

After the life of a 21-year-old woman was cut short last month on her way home, one local politician is putting his foot down and asking Astoria residents to join the fight to bring safety improvements in and around Astoria Park.

Councilman Costa Constantinides started a petition Monday calling for improvements to be made on streets such as Shore Boulevard, Ditmars Boulevard, 19th Street and Hoyt Avenue South.

“The streets surrounding Astoria Park are a dangerous stretch for pedestrians. The corridor is used by many families and children on the way to the park. All the while, many motorists race to and from the park at high rates of speed. A recent hit-and-run death that occurred in the area shows that we need better traffic safety,” Constantinides said. “We have made great strides recently in calming traffic in Astoria through safety improvements on 21st Street south of Hoyt Avenue and through the upcoming slow zone south of Astoria Boulevard. That’s why I have started a petition to support traffic improvements on the streets in and around Astoria Park. I look forward to working with DOT to make Astoria a safer place to live.”

The petition comes after Betty DiBiasio was struck on June 28 by a car as she was crossing a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, just blocks from her home.

The car, which was being driven by 24-year-old Astoria resident Nicholas Colleran, drove through a stop sign and then struck DiBiasio, according to officials.

Colleran allegedly called 911 about an hour after the accident to report that his car had been stolen and in his vehicle theft investigation report claimed it had been taken from a parking lot in the back of his residence. The vehicle was discovered in another location in Astoria with a broken windshield and driver’s side-view mirror, and a damaged driver’s side front fender.

There also appeared to be blood and hair in the driver’s side windshield, where it was broken, and, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, was consistent with a vehicle striking a pedestrian and the pedestrian hitting the windshield.

Colleran then turned himself into the police where he admitted that he had two beers before driving and striking DiBiasio and then leaving the scene.

He was charged with leaving the scene of an incident without reporting a death, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, failure to stop for a stop sign, driving by an unlicensed operator, failure to exercise due care and a violation of the city’s administrative code.

To sign Constantinides’ petition, click here.


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


Astoria co-op calls for gas service to be restored, sheds light on bigger problems

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirao

Shareholders and residents of one Astoria co-op building are caught in the middle of a blame game, and want to get the services they are paying for and deserve.

The occupants of Acropolis Gardens, located between 33rd and 35th streets off Ditmars Boulevard, gathered with Councilman Costa Constantinides and Public Advocate Letitia James Monday calling on the building’s management company to restore gas and hot water, which have been out in the building since late April.

The gas service in eight of the 16 buildings that make up the complex was turned off after a fire occurred on April 29. Since then only two of the eight buildings have gotten the gas service back.

“For eight of the 16 buildings here, this is week eight of not being able to take a hot shower after a long day. This is week number eight of not being able to come home and use their stove to cook themselves a hot meal,” Constantinides said. “This has been week eight of their lives being turned upside down and today we are here to say enough is enough. It’s time to get the work done.”

Con Edison has not turned the gas back on in the buildings because of internal piping issues the building’s management company, Metropolitan Pacific Properties, needs to address first, according to a spokesman.

“The service was shut off to several of the buildings because of unauthorized, improper hookups that violate building codes. Building management has been made fully aware of what they need to do,” the spokesman said. “Gas was shut off for the safety of the residents. We’ll continue working with the city to make restorations as proper repairs are made.”

The co-op board held a rally Sunday with residents and members of the management company calling on Con Edison to turn the gas back on in the complex.

“I’m not only affected but everyone in the complex is affected and ultimately the goal of a a co-op is to operate effectively as one and what is going on is atrocious and it really seems to be Con Edison’s negligence and faulty,” said Ryan Herzich, a resident and shareholder at the Acropolis for about a year, who attended the rally. “Management has been doing everything they can to alleviate that. They’ve been very responsive and proactive in communications with me and all the other tenants and shareholders.”


Steve Osman, CEO of Metropolitan Pacific Properties, speaks during a rally Sunday. (Photo by Michael Johnson)

Steve Osman, CEO of Metropolitan Pacific Properties, said that all work being done within the complex has proper permits and they are in the process of replacing oil burners with natural gas.

During the rally on Monday morning, both Constantinides and James said that instead of pointing fingers, the management company has to first deal with the issue and work with Con Edison to get the gas turned back on and then deal with any problems within agencies.

“We have to work together to fix this problem and there have been enough recriminations, enough of the blame game,” James said. “Fix the problem and fix it now. It’s as simple as that.”

Osman said that the issues with the heat and hot water should be resolved once the burners are replaced with the new ones.

“There’s always going to be some issues, you can please 90 percent of the people and the 10 percent you don’t is always the loudest,” Osman said. “As management we know we’re never going to please 100 percent but that 10 percent is always the loudest. There are sales here every single week, they’re selling for record prices right now, we have four closings coming up. This didn’t hurt any of it.”

However, according to residents, there are other problems that they have been dealing with management for the past years.

Shallena Jabid, who has been living in Acropolis Gardens since 2011 and has owned her apartment since 2007, said, “I hope somebody can do something.”

A source close to the situation told The Courier Wednesday that James is working to set up a meeting with all parties involved in the hope of resolving this matter.


Astoria Slow Zone to be implemented in the summer

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Charts courtesy Department of Transportation

Astoria is cracking down on speed demons.

Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly to approve the creation of a slow zone in the neighborhood in a public meeting on Tuesday.

The streets inside the boundaries of Astoria Boulevard to the north, Steinway Street to the east, 30th Avenue to the south and 21st Street to the west will all be included in the slow zone, which will be implemented later this summer. Those boundary streets (Astoria Boulevard, etc.) will not be part of the zone itself, but just the local streets inside.

The current speed of the affected streets, which include a long section of Newtown Avenue, will be reduced from the current 25 mph to 20 mph, and 14 speed bumps and new signage will be added throughout to remind motorists to reduce their speeds.

Residents — and even Councilman Costa Constantinides — have frequently complained to officials about speeding on 33rd Street in particular, which feeds into the Grand Central Parkway.

“My office is around the corner from 33rd Street, and my staff and I have witnessed numerous instances where cars and trucks speed down the block to make the following light,” Constantinides said in a letter of support for the slow zone plan to the community board. “Not only is this loud and disruptive, but potentially dangerous. Families living along these streets deserve peace of mind.”


Long-time CB 1 leaders guide final full board meeting

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

It’s the end of an era for Community Board 1.

Vinicio Donato, who has been chairman of the board for nearly 40 years, and District Manager Lucille Hartmann, who has been on the board since 1978, oversaw their final public board meeting as leaders of the Astoria-based community group on Tuesday.

Awards and proclamation from various politicians poured in during the meeting, which was the final one before the summer break.

Donato, who has been on the community board since 1972, has served in leadership positions for various institutions and organizations in the borough, including the Museum of the Moving Image, the Astoria Historical Society and the Queens Museum. Hartmann has served as the community board’s district manager since 2008.

Councilmembers Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer, and Borough President Melinda Katz made appearances at the meeting to deliver speeches to the long-time leaders and thank them for their work.

On June 29 there will be a special board meeting to vote and select the new district manager. However, Hartmann’s final day is officially July 17. There are currently three candidates running for the position.

George Stamatiades, the first vice chair of the board, will step in temporarily as chairman when the board reconvenes in September, and until members nominate and select a new chair.


Plans for future Astoria ferry dock revealed

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre /Renderings and charts courtesy NYCEDC

City officials revealed renderings and information about the planned Astoria ferry dock in Hallets Cove at a meeting Thursday to hear residents’ concerns about the landing, which is expected to be complete in 2017.

The new dock will be located off the promenade across from the Astoria Houses complex and will consist of an approximately 3,000-square-foot floating pier with two slots for ferries. The floating pier will have an attached, sloped walkway that connects to the promenade.

Astoria’s ferry dock will be included as part of a new citywide ferry service that Mayor Bill de Blasio first introduced during his State of the City address earlier this year, and seeks to ease public transportation issues for current and future residents of the neighborhood. More than 600 people are expected to ride the Astoria ferry each day by 2025, according to stats from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

“Ferry service is going to provide a reinvigoration of our waterfront, but more importantly a vital transportation option,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said at the meeting. “This is not to be a luxury; we are not here tonight to talk about pleasure boating.”

The proposed ferry dock is about a 20-minute walk from the nearest train station, the N and Q at Astoria Blvd., and often residents in the western Astoria area need to ride a bus to the train. Economic Development Corp. representatives said the ferry will cut commute times down for those that live in the most western part of the community and want to travel to Manhattan quickly.

To alleviate residents’ concerns about security, gates to the dock will be locked when ferry service is closed.

Parking, which some residents believe could become a possible issue, may not be drastically affected by the addition of the ferry, according to results of an Economic Development Corp. survey.

The data shows that 90 percent of people will walk, bike or take the bus to the ferry, while only about 30 people would park in the neighborhood to use the water vessel.

Not everyone was convinced. Some believe it may give an option for residents who live further east to use Astoria as a parking lot and take the ferry when going to Manhattan.

“If they’re interviewing ferry riders in Manhattan, yes, no one is driving to ferries in Manhattan, but it’s a little quieter around here,” said Astoria resident Jonathan Corbin. “There is parking available, although minimal. There is some concern that it’s going to be very disruptive for residents.”

Another possible issue brought up was the potential clash between ferries and kayaking in Hallets Cove.

Constantinides said they are looking very closely at this situation and want a lively waterfront with a variety of uses, although little information was given at the event about how kayaking would be affected by ferry routes as well as what protections might be put in place for kayakers.

“That river belongs to everybody,” said local kayaker Jean Cawley. “Kayaks are often called speed bumps by ferry operators. I don’t want there to be a Vision Zero in 20 years for the river.”


Participatory budgeting winners announced in western Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


The residents of western Queens have spoken and the results are in regarding where they would like to see $1 million spent in each community.

Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer announced the winning projects of this year’s participatory budgeting process, where residents in each individual district were able to cast their vote on where they want city funding to be spent.

In Constantinides’ District 22, which covers Astoria and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, 2,204 residents came out to vote last month and three projects were chosen as the winners.

A total of 825 residents voted on the first project that will spend $245,000 in district-wide public school technology upgrades. Through this project, $35,000 will be spent each for P.S. 84, P.S. 122, P.S. 234, I.S. 235, P.S. 17, P.S. 2 and I.S. 141.

The second project, which brought in 773 votes, is $500,000 to go toward turning a lot under the RFK Bridge, located at Hoyt Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets, which is currently empty, into a dog run.

The final project, with 715 votes, will transform I.S. 126’s parking lot in Astoria into a recreational playground for the school and community.

With the third project the total comes out to $1,245,000, so Constantinides plans to allocate more funding from his discretionary budget to fully support the projects.

“The entire process has been community-driven, inclusive, and engaging. I am excited to see the strong voter response that gave everyone a voice in the city budgeting process,” Constantinides said. “The technology upgrades across the district, a new dog run in a neighborhood that currently lacks even one, and a playground [where] students have no official schoolyard will enrich the lives of families and children throughout Astoria.”

Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced the results of this year’s participatory budgeting process for District 26 on Wednesday night at LIC Bar. (Photo via Twitter/@JimmyVanBramer)

In Van Bramer’s District 26, covering Woodside, Sunnyside, LIC and parts of Astoria, the winning projects include a Long Island City Bikeway, a 10-person van for the Jacob Riis Settlement House for seniors and a playground upgrade at Queensbridge.

A total of $500,000 would go toward the Long Island City Bikeway, which would be an improved, safe and reliable bikeway system in the neighborhood. The Jacob Riis Settlement House van is a $55,000 project that would help transport seniors to and from programs. The third project is a $500,000 upgrade at a playground in the Queensbridge housing development that would replace rubber matting in five jungle gym areas.

During the announcement of the winners Wednesday night, Van Bramer also announced that because of the large voter turnout his office would be funding five more projects. These include $50,000 in accessibility improvements each for the Sunnyside and Woodside libraries, $200,000 for the Woodside Reforestry project, $100,000 for district-wide real-time passenger bus countdown clocks and $75,000 in technology upgrades for P.S./I.S. 78 in LIC.

In total, Van Bremer will be dedicating over $1.5 million in funding for projects chosen by the community.


Participatory budgeting extends to more Queens council districts

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photos

Residents in nine Queens City Council districts will be given the power this year to decide where and how their tax dollars will be spent in their communities.

Last spring, community members in three Queens council districts – Councilman Mark Weprin’s District 23, Councilman Donovan Richard’s District 31 and Councilman Eric Ulrich’s District 32 – were given the opportunity to vote on community projects that would benefit from one million dollars of each council member’s capital discretionary funds.

This year joining those three districts are six new Queens council districts including Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ District 21, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s District 29, Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s District 27, Councilman Paul Vallone’s District 19, Councilman Costa Constantinides’ District 22 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s District 26.

The overall process begins in the fall when residents suggest ideas and choose budget delegates during public meetings. Those volunteers then develop proposals based on the suggestions which are presented to the public before the voting occurs.

Voting this year will take place between April 11 and April 19 and each voter, ages 16 and up, can chose up to five projects. A total of 24 council members throughout the city are participating in this year’s voting.

“Participatory budgeting has been rewarding for our entire district. This entire process has featured ideas generated by members of the community,” Constantinides said. “It has provided an opportunity for residents to become engaged with the civic process through events and meeting. Everyone has shared their common love of their neighborhood and become more interconnected.”

Projects being voted on in Constantinides’ district include renovations at local schools, such as sound proofing P.S. 122’s cafeteria, redesigning the streetscape on Newtown Avenue between 32nd and 22rd streets to construct a pedestrian plaza, turning unused lots into dog runs in Astoria and Jackson Heights, and renovating the basketball court at the Astoria Houses.

In Councilman Miller’s district, residents will be able to vote on 23 projects which include improvements at local parks, technology upgrades at schools and enhancing cultural facilities such as upgrading the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

The $1 million in projects that residents in District 19 can vote on include creating a $400,000 state-of-the-art music studio at Bayside High School, funding three NYPD security cameras, and installing real time passenger countdown clocks along the Q12 and Q13 bus routes.

“With a wide range of voting locations throughout northeast Queens, we encourage and hope to see everyone come out and vote for the projects that they believe will have the best impact on the community,” Vallone said.

In District 23, voters can choose projects such as upgrades to the Queens Village and North Hills libraries, fitness equipment at Alley Pond Park, technology upgrades at local schools and portable security cameras at three sites.

Residents in Councilman Ulrich’s district that encompasses Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park can vote on projects such as renovating the Forest Park Dog Park, refurbishing the 9/11 memorial in Forest Park and installing emergency call boxes in Forest Park. For residents living in the councilman’s district in the Rockaway peninsula, projects include a $500,000 repair of center medians along Cross Bay Boulevard, upgrades to local schools, and the construction of a rock climbing wall in Rockaway Beach adjacent to the new boardwalk.

For more information on the projects and where to vote, click here.


Local pols criticize DHS decision to place sex offender at Westway motel homeless shelter

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Thursday, Feb. 5 10:55 a.m.  

The East Elmhurst community is expressing its outrage after finding out that a registered sex offender has been moved to the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn, which houses families that include young children.

James Bryant, 49, is a sexually violent offender who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl the year prior and faced up to ten years in state prison, according to records from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

According to the same records, Bryant has since been moved to the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., which has served as a shelter for over 100 homeless families since last year.

“I am alarmed at the recent news that a convicted child molester has been placed at the Westway facility after we were assured that location was meant to house families with children,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “The continuing lack of information and transparency surrounding the Westway is extremely troubling and validates the community’s concerns about this location from the start.”

Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

James Bryant (Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services)

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that have any children,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association.

Initially, community members were outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“Since the shelter opened last year, the community and local elected officials have had no voice in the process. We have lacked adequate access to the shelter facilities and its management, so it came to me as a complete surprise that a violent sex offender has been permitted to live in this facility,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The families in need who are living at the Westway deserve more than just a roof over their head – they deserve a safe place to live.”

In regards to the community concerns the DHS said in a statement: “DHS takes safety concerns very seriously and, within its legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone in need, is currently reviewing policies with regard to sex offenders in the families with children system.”


City Council passes Astoria Cove development project

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

The City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the Astoria Cove mega development on Tuesday, clearing the way for the major land use project.

The project now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his likely approval. He has already praised the project after concessions were made by the developer to boost the amount of affordable housing included. He has five days to either sign or veto the measure.

Earlier in the month, Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote to strike a last-minute deal with elected officials concerned about having enough affordable housing in order to win committee support for the project.

Now more than 460 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2-million-square-foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be affordable housing.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

“This agreement shows what we can achieve when the private and public sectors work together,” Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “This agreement provides real benefits to the neighborhood and will help further link our booming communities along the East River.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is anticipated to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, a school and some retail.


Astoria Cove wins City Council committee support after last minute deal

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote on Wednesday to strike a last minute deal with politicians and win approval for the project.

Based on the agreement, the number of below-market rate housing in the development will increase to 27 percent from 20 percent. About 468 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2 million square foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be deemed affordable.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who promised to fight for more affordable housing units, fully embraced the project following the deal.

“The agreement will help transform Astoria for the better,” Constantinides said. “For the first time in city history, this developer will be required by law to provide permanently affordable housing that is within the reach of Astorians.”

The project still has to go through a full City Council vote on Nov. 25.

In addition to the Land Use Committee giving its approval, Borough President Melinda Katz has also had a change of heart due to the negotiations.

“The modified Astoria Cove proposal is consistent with Queens’ commitment to responsible development and is now closer to par with many of our chief concerns, namely housing, transit options and skilled labor,” Katz said in a statement. “Once built, this project will become a landmark accomplishment that we can be proud of here in the Borough of Queens.”

Astoria Cove will consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is anticipated to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, a school and some retail.