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Revitalize Astoria effort kicks off with new lamps

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To help lead Astoria’s shopping districts to a bright future, state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) is stepping into the past.

Gianaris kicked off his Revitalize Astoria campaign Friday by announcing he had secured $1 million to fund the installation of antique-style street lamps along four of the neighborhood’s central shopping corridors.

“They are intended to increase the attractiveness of Astoria, enhance the quality of life and hopefully attract more shoppers,” Gianaris said Friday as he stood on Broadway between 37th and 38th streets alongside one of the aging models that would be replaced. “We want to make sure the neighborhood keeps up with the increasing demands on its infrastructure and the shops stay as productive as they can be.”

Every street lamp now standing on stretches of Broadway, 30th Avenue, Ditmars Boulevard and Steinway Street will be replaced by the more classic style M-type lamp. The fluted poles feature embossed vines spiraling up their length, a decorative cast-iron gusset and a tear-drop luminaire on top.

The lamps now standing on the street fall into two categories: the cobra heads, a common style with a slender curved neck that reaches over the street, and the shoe-box variety that has a rectangular head that sits at the top of the pole like a stump.

“In addition to being ugly, they’re also inefficient,” Gianaris said of the shoe-box style lights.

Gianaris said the new street lights are the first step in a multi-stage initiative designed to make the neighborhood a more desirable place to live and shop.

A piece of land at 21st Avenue and 76th Street currently used as a dumping ground will eventually be transformed into a park that will be named for Carlos Lillo, a paramedic who died in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center, Gianaris said. Other initiatives include fixing street benches and renovating subway stations.

Leaders of the local merchant groups praised the planned light fixtures as a way to lure more people into their shops.

“It is bringing back a touch of old New York,” said Linda Perno, the president of the Broadway Merchants and Professional Association.

“The better we feel about our own neighborhoods, the more people will come to our neighborho­ods,” said Sam Pirozzolo, the chairman of the Steinway Street Business Improvement District. “As the economy picks up, this community will become bigger and stronger than it has been in the past.”

“I believe that it’s very important to have a strong retail strip because when you have a strong commercial district you have a strong community,” said state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth), whose redrawn district will include some of the neighborhood’s shopping areas.

Joseph Cannisi, the borough commissioner for the city Department of Transportation, said the installation of the new lights should occur over a two-month period starting next June.

“It’s forward thinking like this that’s going to help our smaller commercial strips compete with the larger boxes,” he said, referring to Home Depot and Wal-Mart-sized stores.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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