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Astoria Residents To Try Out Pedestrian Plaza For One Day

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 22, 2012 8:18am

ASTORIA — A Department of Transportation plan to build a pedestrian plaza on busy strip of Newtown Avenue in Astoria has been drawing both fierce opposition from local business owners and praise from residents.

So this Saturday, DOT wants Astorians to see what it would be like if the plaza - designed in part to address concerns about pedestrian safety and the lack of open space in the neighborhood - was created.

On August 25, from 7 a.m. to midnight, the department will close the southern tip of Newtown Avenue at 30th Avenue (between a Key Food store and Athens Café) for a day.

DOT will place tables, chairs, umbrellas and planters there, so residents can experience a plaza in the neighborhood and to see for themselves the benefits that safe, accessible pedestrian space can provide, a DOT spokesman said.

DOT staff will be available to answer questions and to take comments.

Local business owners say the plaza would create even more traffic congestion and eliminate badly needed parking spaces.

Seven parking spaces would be lost if the plaza is built, according to the DOT.

Joe Vaccaro, 40, who lives in the area and owns a real estate business there, told DNAinfo.com in June that he was particularly worried about an increase in vehicle traffic from the proposed plaza.

“When 30th Avenue and 33rd Street become congested, Newtown Avenue alleviates the traffic,” he said.

But the plaza has its supporters as well.

Tamara Reynolds, 44, a cookbook author, said the plaza would be a welcome addition to the street. “I think it would be a pro-community and pro-business solution,” she said.

The DOT will share Saturday's findings in a full presentation to the community board during their September meeting, the spokesman said.