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Civic leaders at town hall tackle safety, double parkers

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Residents and elected officials were vocal in their opposition to the mayor's plan to charge $4 tolls on East River bridges heading into Manhattan, while others said they were concerned about speeding vehicles on Astoria streets and potential truck traffic caused by a plan by Con Edison to sell part of its western Queens property to Federal Express.Gianaris, who holds the town hall each year with the United Community Civic Association at the museum to allow neighborhood residents to discuss community issues with a variety of city agencies, said he believes Bloomberg's proposing the tolls in the form of an environmental benefit that would cut down on traffic is questionable."This is a wolf in sheep's clothing," he said. "It's a way to tax people who do not live in Manhattan. It's like paying to get into an amusement park."He said he was concerned that Long Island commuters would use Astoria and Long Island City streets as parking lots and taking public transportation into the city from those neighborhoods if a congestion pricing plan is enacted.State Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria) said the situation would be made worse by the fact that the municipal parking lot on Hoyt Avenue in Astoria has closed down to make way for housing in the area and another lot near the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City would soon shut down.Some residents said they were also concerned with traffic safety issues in Astoria, such as cars running red lights and drivers talking on cell phones, while others proposed traffic lights at specific intersections that they considered dangerous. Brian McCarthy, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, said a majority of the neighborhood's traffic issues are a result of illegal parking."The major problem in Astoria is congestion caused by double parking," he said. "People are making turns and hitting cars that are illegally parked."He said the precinct has also been cracking down on people riding bicycles on the sidewalk in Astoria and that 20 arrests were made in 2007 for that offense."When people are riding on the sidewalk, causing 20 people to jump out of the way, that constitutes reckless endangerment," he said.Other residents said they were concerned that Con Edison could sell part of its 20th Avenue site in Astoria to Federal Express, potentially causing an increase in trucks on neighborhood streets.Gianaris and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), both of whom previously slammed the utility for its response to the 10-day western Queens blackout of 2006, said they were concerned about the plan."We need to find a use for that property that doesn't hurt the community," Vallone said. "But if Con Ed sells the property, it would be one less location for a power plant in Astoria."Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee said the utility was in discussion to sell part of its property but nothing has been finalized.Rosemarie Poveromo, president of the United Community civic, said the group would hold a public meeting with Federal Express on the plan at the Augustana Lutheran Church in East Elmhurst on Feb. 7.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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