The project has a completion date of spring 2013 and a projected cost of about $400,000. According to the DOT, the proposed closure would remove seven parking spaces.
The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition, an advocacy group for the neighborhood, and other residents spoke in favor of the proposal at a June CB 1 meeting, but many business owners, backed by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), opposed the plan.
Merchants said the plaza would drive down business and make traffic in the area worse. Nevertheless, Vallone and the business owners are trying to compromise by supporting the construction of a small landscaped plaza that would not ban traffic entirely.
In 2006, the DOT started studying schools adjacent to streets with lots of accidents. PS 17, located a quarter of a mile from the proposed plaza, was one of 135 city schools studied that reported numerous accidents in nearby intersections, including the proposal site, according to DOT traffic accident data.
The survey looked at travel speeds, vehicular accidents and street-crossings times. The DOT additionally conducted interviews with the school’s teachers and its principal.
“They knew this was someplace that needs some improvements. There’s only 11 percent of streets in this borough that have more crashes,” Vaidila Kungy, NYC Plaza program director at the DOT said in June.
The NYC Plaza Program is a primary part of the city’s effort to ensure that all New Yorkers are within a 10-minute walking distance of a public space.