ASTORIA — Shore Boulevard won't be turning into a car-free zone anytime soon, the Department of Transportation said this week.
While the agency is looking at ways to boost pedestrian safety in the neighborhood, it shot down a local lawmaker's proposal to entirely ban traffic on the waterfront roadway in Astoria Park, a DOT spokesman confirmed.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas proposed the idea in August, saying the street had become a problem spot for speeding drivers and noisy idling cars. She suggested converting the road into a pedestrian walkway as a possible solution.
While many supported the suggestion, it also drew fierce opposition from others who said they treasure the tradition of taking a drive along Shore Boulevard. Some worried that closing the street would make it harder for the elderly or handicapped to get to the waterfront.
An online petition to keep the roadway open garnered more than 1,200 signatures.
"People really love going there. People have done this for so many decades," said Tony Meloni, an Astoria resident, Community Board 1 member and head of the Astoria Civic Association.
He said many fear that closing Shore Boulevard would move the noisy cars and crowds that currently use the road to nearby residential streets instead.
"Imagine all those people, all the motorcycles not being in an isolated spot on Shore where no one lives, but being front of your home," he said.
Simotas said that even though the DOT didn't take up her proposal, she's glad that it "got the conversation started."
"Clearly there are problems," on the street, she said. "I'm really happy that my idea triggered some discussion and people started talking about it."
She and Councilman Costa Constantinides held a community workshop with the DOT last month to solicit suggestions on how to improve traffic safety in and around the park.
Some said the meeting drew out "a lot of great ideas," including making Shore Boulevard a one-way street instead. Another suggestion was removing some corner parking spaces on streets around the park to increase visibility for drivers making turns.
The DOT is expected to use the community's suggestions to come up with proposals for the area, Simotas said. A DOT spokesman said the agency plans to continue its discussions with local stakeholders.