The Newtown Pentacle

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Getting my groove on in Astoria.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured today are the POV’s from 31st street and Astoria Blvd., which is one of the worst street crossings for pedestrians and bicycles in all of Queens. The construction materials are related to the “enhanced station initiative” that Governor Cuomo introduced a few years back, which has been playing out in incremental stages all up and down the 31st street corridor between Northern Blvd./Jackson Avenue and the terminal stop of the N and W Astoria lines at Ditmars Blvd. One was admittedly skeptical about this when it was described, but – in my opinion, at least – the newly redesigned stations are pretty good. They supply an abundance of light to what has historically been a dark and somewhat menacing streetscape, and the “upstairs” component is pretty clean visually.

Saying that, the corner pictured above which… y’know… has a train station over it and thusly a lot of pedestrians, is terrifying to navigate on foot and particularly so at night.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ultimately, the high volume traffic problem is due to the Triborough Bridge, which spits thousands of cars a day out onto a two block long stretch of local streets which lead to the entrance ramps for the Grand Central Parkway. Why there aren’t express lanes leading directly to the parkway from the bridge is yet another one of those Queens mysteries nobody can answer. The Grand Central Parkway runs through a trench sunk into Astoria Blvd. which stretches from roughly 33rd street to 47th street, where it eventually joins the same altitude as the surrounding local streets. The trench is due to topography, of course, and both sides of Astoria Blvd. for the more or less 3/4 of a mile between 33rd and 47th are heavily trafficked one lane service roads with a parking lane along a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Why not deck the highway and create a green space/park over it? It would save the State a bunch of money in terms of snow removal, create a planted area in place of highway, contain the particulates of auto exhaust wafting off the Grand Central and into the residential streets surrounding the thing, and would likely eliminate the de facto “us and them” factor between the bifurcated neighborhoods of Astoria (one centering around the commercial strip of Ditmars to north and the southern 30th ave./Broadway zones). We’d drink up a lot of storm water with a green space, and break up the heat island effect – and as I’m often wont to point out – there is no greater magnifier for real estate valuations than the presence of a nearby park. Everybody wins – contractors, labor, drivers, pedestrians, politicians, real estate people, even the actual community itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg, where the BQE runs through a similar trench, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has been talking about something similar for quite a while. They’ve done a bunch of the math for this sort of thing, and it’s not outlandishly expensive as long as conversation about the subject stays away from creating a deck structure that needs to support buildings, only parkland. You’d be able to prefabricate the sections, install them one by one during (relatively) low traffic intervals, and give a section of NYC remarkable for its lack of parklands a new reason for the citizenry to move in and join the party. Also, this would likely end up being a fully union laborer operation, so all the Politicians could wet their beaks at the trough of a happy Building Trade Council. Again – win, win, win.

Why not here in Western Queens? Tell me why this wouldn’t improve things for the people of Astoria?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 19, 2019 at 11:00 am

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