Astorians discuss waterfront improvements

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For more than a year, Green Shores NYC has been working to realize its vision of a connected waterfront along the East River from Bowery Bay to Newtown Creek, and last week the organization began to formulate that vision further with the public.

Green Shores NYC, a conglomeration of six community activist groups in the Long Island City area that organizes cleanups, activities and recreational and educational programming, held a meeting last Thursday at Pistilli Grand Manor in the Upper Ditmars section of Astoria. They asked residents what they liked about the waterfront, what they did not like about the waterfront, what they usually did at the waterfront and the which routes they usually take to get there.

“There’s room for improvement and there’s room for a continuous waterfront,” said Karen Ellman, president of Green Shores.

Green Shores held the meeting in conjunction with the green real estate firm Jonathan Rose Companies and nonprofit land conservation organization The Trust for Public Land, which has most significantly saved the open space around the Hollywood Sign. This is the first of six meetings that will be held throughout the summer. The others will take place at locations in Astoria Park, Hallet’s Point, Ravenswood, Queensbridge and Hunter’s Point.

Andy Stone, director of the New York City program of the trust, said the trust also works with residents on creating new visions for communities and encouraged the building of East River State Park in Brooklyn.

In response to questions of whether Green Shores’s work would duplicate the work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Waterfront Revitalization Program, Matthew Lister of Jonathan Rose Companies, said the Green Shores program would try to be complementary.

“There is more input that comes from these meetings that can go to the city,” Lister said.

He said the meetings are primarily for listening. After they have taken place, Green Shores will hold another meeting to begin the design process and in October projects related to creating a continuous waterfront will be prioritized and steps will be taken to implement those projects.

After conferring together in groups, the residents marked out some concerns. The biggest complaint was lack of access to the waterfront, as well as pollution and access issues from the surrounding industrial sites, such as LaGuardia Airport and the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment and the Con Edison power plants.

“Industries are working, they’re providing jobs,” said Clare Doyle, a volunteer with Green Shores, but she questioned how much they required a monopoly of the waterfront area.

Some mentioned the ballfields where local children play Little League, but asked for more maintenance and better infrastructure. Ralph Demarco and Astoria parks were mentioned as the best places in the area for open space.

“It’s nice to see a consensus on what we should work on,” said local resident Helen Ho.

Community Board 1 District Manager Lucille Hartman, who was present at the meeting said she thought it was a good start, but wanted to get more people involved.

“One a scale of one to 10, I give it a seven,” said resident Fran McDonald. “It’s a start. At least somebody is listening.”

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

Updated 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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