FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM AUGUST 27, 2020 • THE QUEENS COURIER 25
oped letters & comments
A call to study Astoria streets for
Open Streets, Open Restaurants
BY RICHARD KHUZAMI
It has indeed been a summer for the
ages. We are living in times unique in
history, and we are all discovering new
ways to live, to view our communities.
Oft en in times of stress, everything
gets accelerated. It becomes an opportunity
to try new things, unimaginable
just a few years before. Th ese
opportunities are oft en created to cure
ills to our society.
In Astoria, one of our biggest assets
and best attractions are our cafes, restaurants
But the COVID-19 pandemic has
hit us hard.
We at the Old Astoria Neighborhood
Association (OANA) have prioritized
helping small businesses, especially in
hospitality, survive this time of turmoil.
Businesses that have a special
place in our community are closing,
and the losses can be unrecoverable!
We applaud the city of New York for
creating their Open Restaurant program,
which allowed restaurants and
bars to serve outside, therefore protecting
the public from the dangers
of contagion in indoor environments,
but allowing these businesses income
to survive. And, they did this with a
minimum of time-consuming regulation,
allowing business to sign up and
start operating immediately.
However, since then, the bureaucracy
has struck back, and started fi ning
and over-regulating these same businesses,
oft en for issues that should be
enforced by the government. Th ey do
not have the power of issuing summons,
etc., so how can they be expected
to change behaviors?
Beyond this, we at OANA worked
most of the summer to organize local
restaurants to take advantage of the
Open Streets, Open Restaurants program
off ered by the city. Th is program
actually closes streets with a
large presence of restaurants in order
to facilitate their business in a safe
In a general matter of urban life,
the move to reduce vehicular traffi c
in favor of pedestrians and personal
transport (bicycles, skate boards,
mopeds, etc.) is gaining steam. As of
Aug. 17, the city has granted such status
to 76 open streets and nine pedestrian
plazas allowing restaurant use.
Th is street closure includes an available
15-foot corridor for service vehicles
(recently, a fi retruck had to turn
back on 30th Avenue as it could not
get through because of traffi c).
In partnership with the 30th Avenue
Business Association, OANA successfully
signed up 20 restaurants on 30th
Avenue to apply for this program.
It took a month of hard outreach,
and we greatly appreciate those who
helped us. We were encouraged by the
city and elected offi cials to proceed
with this project.
Regretfully, in the end we were
unsuccessful in closing 30th Avenue
to traffi c. Th e stated reasons were traffi
c concerns and unruly customers.
However, we disagree with this and
believe closing the avenue to traffi c
would accomplish the following:
Greatly increase safety, eliminating
the possibility of a vehicle crashing
into restaurant barriers, and saving
Eliminate the fumes of grid-locked
vehicles. None of us wants a side of
carbon monoxide with their pizza!
Most of the rowdy behavior which
affl icted Astoria was caused by individuals
who paraded their vehicles
around in order to impress! Th is is
the same crowd we have dealt with
for years on Shore Boulevard in
Astoria Park. And when they closed
Shore Boulevard to vehicles, everyone
moved up to the Business District.
Without vehicle access, these people
have no interest in the neighborhood
(they stopped coming to Shore
Boulevard). If we had closed Steinway
and 30th Avenue to traffi c, many of
the problems would have been eliminated.
Increase area for social distancing,
more pedestrian friendly, and hopefully
a more family-orientated destination.
Increase the number of outdoor
tables for the restaurants.
We only asked for closure from 5
p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday,
and from noon to midnight on
Sunday. We want to make sure we
minimally aff ect other retail on the
Th e city has seen fi t to close another
avenue, not for increasing commercial
viability, but to increase outdoor
space for individual residents.
We are not opposed to this in general,
as long as it is done within a plan that
includes its eff ects on the entire neighborhood.
And this should not eliminate
the possibility of other deserving
neighborhoods and commercial
districts to reap the benefi ts of street
closures. Also, closure every day from
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seems a bit excessive.
We wonder how this has aff ected local
Th erefore, we call upon the city
of New York to take a more holistic
approach for all of Astoria the next
time the program is rolled out. Th e
city should determine the best times
and locations so that next year’s Open
Streets, Open Restaurants program
(promised by the mayor) can equally
be enjoyed by all.
Th e media has called Astoria one of
the best neighborhoods in the world;
let’s make sure our legacy is not the
destruction of this.
Richard Khuzami is president of
the Old Astoria Neighborhood
CLAIRE SHULMAN WILL
BE MISSED BY ALL
Former Queens Borough President Claire
Shulman will be missed by all. She worked
across the aisle with Republican Mayor Rudy
Guiliani and several local Republican NYC
Council members on a regular bipartisan
basis, harkening back to an age of collegiality
no longer seen today. Shulman, like New
York’s late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
stood head and shoulders above today’s generation
of ultra partisan Democrats. She was
from an era that included more moderate
independent Democrats as opposed to today’s
politically correct “my way or the highway”
extreme liberal Democrats who have no tolerance
for views other than their own. In our
era of highly partisan politics, how disappointing
that members from diff erent parties
and ideological commitments seldom
can come together on behalf of all citizens.
Shulman was a role model others should be
emulating. She will be missed by all.
Larry Penner, Great Neck
WHO IS HELPING
Two weeks ago, two homeless men set up
a discarded couch by an MTA lot on our
block. Th e garbage was growing around it
and neighbor calls to 311 brought no assistance.
Finally, we had the couch removed.
Th is does not solve the problem on any
level. We as a city are still not addressing the
needs of the homeless.
What happened to a faster track to outreach
services, including before the pandemic?
What is happening with the millions
of dollars awarded for mental health services
under Th riveNYC?
Th ere was a lot of fanfare about a new initiative
to help the homeless riding the subway
aft er their removal to sanitize the trains.
Th ey were going to be connected to services.
Th at connection seems threadbare, the budget
of Th riveNYC does not.
Concerned residents of Ridgewood
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN
Here is what it means to be an incumbent
president, Mr. Trump.
When more than 175,000 Americans die
on your watch, you don’t get to blame others.
When the economy collapses with unemployment
in double digits and citizens lining
up for food, you don’t get to blame others.
When your administration has the highest
turnover rate in history and many of
your close associates have been charged or
imprisoned on criminal counts, you don’t
get to blame others.
When the nation is bitterly divided and
outrage is in the streets, you don’t get to
blame others. All your failures of leadership
and the political, social and economic
mess evident in your incumbency is now
You might boast of your early economic
accomplishments, but this nation’s economic
growth had slowed for three quarters
prior to the pandemic, offi cially culminating
with the declared recession in February.
Like any endeavor or game, it is not how
well you start, but how well you fi nish that
counts the most.
Glenn Hayes, Kew Gardens
DRIVING THROUGH CUNNINGHAM PARK // PHOTO SUBMITTED BY HAIFA BISRAJ
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