Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

In an effort to make the roads near PS 17 safer for its young students, the city has proposed turning the intersection at 30th and Newtown avenues near 33rd Street in Astoria into a pedestrian plaza, but City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) disagrees.

“Closing that street will take seven or eight parking spaces and increase congestion,” Vallone said.

The city Department of Transportation presented two potential plans to Community Board 1 last month aimed at making the crosswalk safer. The intersection — which is close to PS 17, at 28-37 29th St. in Astoria — was the site of 49 crashes between 2006 and 2010. The nearby intersection at 31st Street and 30th Avenue has seen 53 in that same time period.

DOT’s two options for the site include building curb extensions on both sides of Newtown Avenue near 30th Avenue or installing a 4,700-square-foot plaza there.

The curb extension plan would cost about $400,000 and would be complete in spring 2013. The plan would ensure that nine parking spaces would remain on the block.

The plaza plan would cost significantly less at about $75,000 and could be completed within months, bringing needed open space to the community.

But it would get rid of multiple parking spaces in the busy shopping corridor and would necessitate turning Newtown Avenue into a two-way street between the plaza and 32nd Street.

Access to the hydrant would still be open for the FDNY to use in an emergency.

The DOT is collecting feedback on the plan and expects to present a refined proposal to CB 1 in September.

Vallone said the majority of those who have contacted him about closing part of the street to create a plaza are opposed to it, and every business owner he has spoken to is also against the plan.

“Nobody knows their business better than they do,” he said.

The councilman said he would support the installation of a smaller plaza with a flagpole.

“I’m always a little wary when DOT wants to close streets,” Vallone said.

The department has set up a Facebook page on the plans at facebook.com/NewtownAve. While there are many detractors on the page, others are more supportive, with some creating petitions and a pro-plaza page called Friends of Newtown Plaza, which has 33 likes.

The DOT has been investigating the possibility of creating a plaza with the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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