The former Westway Motel at Astoria Boulevard and 71st Street has been designated by the city Department of Homeless Services as a homeless shelter for families with children.
Photo Vinny DuPre
The former Westway Motel at Astoria Boulevard and 71st Street has been designated by the city Department of Homeless Services as a homeless shelter for families with children. Photo Vinny DuPre
The United Community Civic Association (UCCA) has called an emergency town hall meeting to discuss the recent decision by city Department of Homeless Services to officially designate the former Westway Motel as a homeless shelter.

For several years, the motel on Astoria Boulevard and 71st Street, has been used as a shelter for families in need of emergency housing who were bused to the facility in the evening for an overnight stay.

A final decision by the DHS has been reached to make the Westway a full-time shelter for the homeless.

“The city is facing a record number of homeless families with children requesting shelter. As an agency it is our mission and responsibility to provide shelter and related services to anyone in need. We hope that New Yorkers will find it in themselves to embrace these families with children in their communities as we help them to get back on their feet,” said Chirstopher Miller speaking for the DHS.

At this time only families with children will be allowed to settle at the former motel.

The town hall meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image.

UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo expressed disappointment in the decision by the DHS to turn the facility into a 121-unit shelter.

“I am deeply concerned that we the people are losing our voice with the city administration,” she said. “Decisions are being made without the involvement of the community that will be impacted by this.”–Jason D. Antos

Fresk-O To open this Fall on 30th Avenue




Making yogurt is in our blood. For over 75 years, the Prentzas family has been whipping up fun and fruity flavors, and now we’re opening the doors of Fresk’o to share our tradition with you! Back home in Greece, yogurt is simply part of Greek culture—rooted in authenticity and fresh ingredients. We’re taking everything classic about the old and jazzing it up with the new to give you an unforgettable experience with a punch of personality.

By offering traditional Greek yogurt in addition to its beloved frozen counterpart, we just aren’t your dime-a-dozen local froyo shop. Stop in for a cup of yo and a cup of joe morning, noon, or night. And, with more toppings than you can shake a stick at, you can be good in the AM with juicy fruit and granola, and naughty in the PM by smothering it all in chocolate sauce. Hey, no judgement here. Carry on!

Community Board Puts Kibosh on Pedestrian Plaza Plans For Astoria

 ERICA PITZIpix11.com | @wpix8:03 p.m. EDT, September 14, 2012


“I would like to have anyplace where I sit down and bring my drinks and my food without having to pay to sit in some cafe, so I’m all for it,” said Linda Scarangella, a longtime resident of Astoria.

Those residents, like Scarangella, who looked forward to the idea of a pedestrian plaza in their neighborhood will have to put it behind them

The plan to shut down this small street off 30th Avenue to put in a permanent plaza got the kibosh by the area’s Community Board earlier this week.

The intersection of 30th Avenue and Newtown is at the crux of the battle.  Numbers from The Department of Transportation, DOT, show it averaged one accident a month over the course of four years with the extra long crosswalk considered especially dangerous for people crossing the street.  That is why the DOT came up with an idea to shut down the section of the street to traffic and put in a pedestrian plaza here but nearby businesses blasted the idea.

Clearly the Community Board saw their side of the story and voted in support of the business owners, like Key Food, the grocery store on the corner.

Key Food’s Tommy Anderson said, “We are against the idea of a permanently installed pedestrian plaza which would be closed to traffic and would cause this neighborhood to lose valuable parking.”

While the loss of parking is only seven spaces, Anderson says any loss could be a problem for business.

“If we lose any advantage or convenience, it may drive customers away, not just from this store but from all the other surrounding businesses.

The compromise, according to the DOT, is to extend the curbs on both sides of the problem street so that the crosswalk is shorter, therefore safer, for pedestrians.  In theory, that could also create more concrete for a sitting area.

“We totally support that compromise proposal,” said Anderson.

However, not all businesses are behind it.  Frank Arcabscio is the president of the 30th Avenue Business Association who stood in the middle of the street to show us why even the curb extension could be a problem.  “When you bump it out, you’re literally in the middle of the street, when you go this far out and you still have to keep street open, you’re now putting people in the middle of the street like a pier in the ocean of a busy traffic lane.”

So with safety still a concern, it is now on the DOT to make the decision.  A spokesperson told PIX 11 they expect to go ahead with the curb extension plan in 2013, pending further approval from the Community Board.


Copyright © 2012, WPIX-TV

Astoria board says nay to no-car plaza

Newtown Avenue plan voted down 25 to 7 for parking and biz concerns

Astoria board says nay to no-car plaza  1


By Maria Fitzsimons, Chronicle Contributor |

The proposed controversial Newtown Avenue pedestrian plaza was voted down by Community Board 1 in a raucous meeting on Tuesday, leaving supporters in the packed room disappointed. The Department of Transportation could still decide to go against the board.

“You should be ashamed,” yelled a resident during the voting proceedings.

The vote was 7 to   25 opposed.

“That’s the recommendation of the board — against pedestrian plaza proposal,” said Vinicio Donato, CB1 chairman.

If approved, the DOT’s plan was to shut down traffic at the busy intersection of Newtown and 30th avenues, which local business owners opposed because of traffic concerns, the loss of four parking spaces and the need for emergency vehicles to gain easy entry to the area.

Those against the street closure also cited the use of Newtown Avenue as an artery to go to nearby Mount Sinai Queens Hospital, located on 30th Avenue.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) vowed to work with the DOT, but opposed the street closing plan.

The pedestrian plaza would have provided seating, tables with umbrellas, greenery, bike racks and public art for residents and had the support of advocacy group, the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. The coalition had committed to help with funding for the proposed plaza and work as a partner with the DOT.

The DOT held an all-day test run of the pedestrian plaza on Aug. 25, which closed Saturday traffic on NewtownAvenueuntil midnight.

“This crosswalk is very long and uncontrolled,” Vaidila Kungys, NYC Plaza program director said of the danger for pedestrians crossing at the intersection of Newtown and 30th avenues. Kungys added that an elderly woman was killed trying to cross the street last year.

The DOT received a letter from CB 1 asking for the street’s closure in 2001, due to a high volume of accidents.The agency has since monitored travel speeds, vehicle accidents and duration of street crossings.

In 2006, the department started studying schools adjacent to streets with many accidents. PS 17, located a quarter mile from the proposed plaza site, was one of 135 city schools that reported accidents in nearby intersections, including the plaza’s intended location, according to DOT traffic accident data.The agency also conducted interviews with the school’s teachers and principal.

“These responses are neither scientific nor complete,” CB 1 member Frances Luhmann-McDonald said to loud applause, referring to information in documents presented by the DOT to the board prior to the meeting.

Luhmann-McDonald additionally asked for members of CB 1 who are also on the executive board of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition to recuse themselves from voting on this proposal — due to a conflict of interest.

“[We’ve] endured bike lanes where we are not suppose to drive,” Luhmann-McDonald said, adding, “this is all part of the anti-automobile attitude of this administration.”

Outside Astoria World Manor where the meeting was held, supporters of the Newtown Avenue pedestrian plaza converged to speak.

The younger board members of CB 1 voted for the pedestrian plaza, while a majority of those who opposed it were significantly older.

“It’s a disgrace. The people on the board are not representative of the community,” said Jerry Kann, an Astoria resident who spoke before the board.

According to Kann, if community board members were elected, they could be a better reflection of their community.

“It might have something to do with the fact that so many of these folks are very old people. I have nothing against old people but if they’re basically appointed for life, they have no incentive whatsoever to be accountable to the people,” he added.

George Spyropoulos, new co-owner of Sweet Athens Cafe, didn’t know how the plaza would affect his business. The cafe is adjacent to where the pedestrian proposal would have been built.

“However, when [the DOT] did the pilot a few weeks ago, people were getting food from all over and sitting there, so I can see both sides. People took out food from us too,” Spyropoulos added.

Sweet Athens Cafe’s request for unenclosed sidewalk seating was approved at the meeting; 23 tables with 92 seats, reduced from their proposed 116 seats.

“[The pedestrian plaza] is going to bring traffic jams and more undesirables. As far as we know, we’ve seen it already with the jam-ups,” said Astoria resident Cindy Moll who was very vocal while sitting in the audience. She was referring to the pedestrian plaza pilot program held in late August.

“Everyone knows who the undesirables are,” Moll added, saying “derelicts” hang in the area, causing residents to make frequent calls to the police.

“I’m really totally opposed to it; in a perfect world, beautiful, but this is Astoria, it’s the hustle-bustle. If you want to sit and relax, go into Dunkin’ Donuts or a cafe,”Ronnie Schalk said, after addressing the board.

Astoria pedestrian plaza pits merchants vs. residents

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A proposed pedestrian plaza in the heart of Astoria’s busy shopping district is pitting merchants against residents.

Community Board 1 is slated to vote on the controversial plan to close a triangular portion of Newtown Ave., between 32nd St. and 30th Ave., at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

City Department of Transportation officials said they will take the board’s recommendations into consideration before deciding whether to close the avenue to motorists.

“It’s going to create more traffic and it’s not going to create [a] pleasant” atmosphere, said Frank Arcabascio, president of the 30th Avenue Business Association.

If approved, the plaza, complete with tables, chairs and planters, could be installed this fall or in the spring, DOT officials said.Four parking spaces would be lost, agency officials said.

“We look forward to working further with the community on this,” DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said in a statement.

The city created a temporary plaza at the site last month to gauge the community’s response.

Costas Panteliodis, owner of Sweet Athens Cafe, which abuts the space, said he didn’t gain any patrons from the Aug. 25 trial run.

“I want to try,” he said. But “probably it’s going to hurt business.”

Bobby Kartsagoulis, owner of the 30th Avenue Fruit Market, said it could attract trash and vagrants. “It’s more bother than it helps,” he said.

But Rudy Sarchese, president of the Astoria Homeowners & Tenants Business Civic Association, said he supported the project.

“There’s not much open space in Astoria,” he said. The plaza would be “a place to enjoy the neighborhood.”

Holly Leicht, executive director of the open space advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, said plazas often benefit merchants by attracting shoppers.

The key is ensuring that they are well-maintained, she said.

“In such a densely built city, any opportunities to create new spaces — even small pocket parks like a plaza — can really add to the quality of life,” she said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said although many merchants have opposed the idea, many residents have said they support it.

Vallone said the city should consider creating a smaller plaza that would still allow traffic along Newtown Ave.

“I’m in favor of a compromise that is not on the table,” he said.


Sonia Mylonas, Cat’s Eye Imaging



“That’s where it’s at,” said Mylonas, a leader of Cats Eyes Imaging, a printing and embroidery company based in Astoria that works with small businesses, large corporations and other organizations.

After majoring in marketing and public relations, 32-year-old Mylonas decided to pursue her interest in bringing businesses to the online world.

A native of Melvin, Australia, Mylonas moved to Astoria seven years ago for a job working for Scholastic Book Club’s online department. Mylonas worked at relaunching the book club’s online website.

“I wanted to get more experience in the technological arena and New York City is the place to be,” she said.

After a year, she moved on to working with Cats Eye Imaging. Though the company has been around for the past 10 years, in the last year it started a subdivision called Cats Eye Webs, offering professional web design, web development, online marketing, SEO and other services to help bring businesses online.

“Yellow Pages is on its way out and everything is going online,” Mylonas said.

Mylonas has worked with several different companies, such as Sacco and Fillas, Life Health and Fitness, Century 21 Alexiou Realty, William Hallet, Athens Square Park and many others.

“We work with anything from nonprofits to big corporations,” she said. “The important part is getting them to come on the web.”

In particular, Mylonas said getting businesses accustomed to the web involves associating them with different social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and other programs, and creating a website to draw in new customers.

“It’s all about using cross-promotion between the different types of media to draw in new people,” she said.

Mylonas said her goal with Cat’s Eye Webs is to start connecting businesses by bringing them into the online world.

“In this Internet age, people have the potential to be more connected than ever before,” Mylonas said. “Cat’s Eye Webs would like to be the platform to deliver this to the community.”

Read more: Queens Ledger – Sonia Mylonas Cat s Eye Imaging

Changes Proposed For Newtown And 30th Avenue Intersection



Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. addresses Astoria residents and business owners during the DOT’s public meeting on traffic conditions on Newtown Avenue and 33rd Street.The triangle formed by Newtown and 30th Avenues in Astoria represents a historic exception to the ancient grid system of placing streets at right angles first proposed by the Greek architect and urban planner Hippodamian. A city Department of Transportation (DOT) “workshop on pedestrian safety and underutilized street space” presented two ideas to the public for the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection at the Community Board 1 meeting on June 5 at Astoria World Manor.

One idea is a long planned project for curb extensions as part of a school safety initiative for nearby P.S. 17. A second is a new proposal for a 4,700-square foot pedestrian plaza closing the intersection to traffic for one block going northwest.

“I support a small plaza, better signage [and] better timing [of traffic lights],” Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., stated, agreeing with local merchants who support another idea, the construction of a small, landscaped plaza that does not impede traffic. “There are other ways to make this a safer place,” he said. “There are some concerns by local businesses,” acknowledged Emily Weidenhof, presenting the proposal for the DOT. The Newtown Avenue public plaza could be built as early as this summer at an approximate cost of $75,000, according to the DOT, closing the intersection and losing seven parking spaces (three new spaces are created on 30th Avenue, but 10 are lost on Newtown Avenue). Newtown Avenue would also be converted to a two-way street to maintain driveway access for Key Food (via 32nd Street) and emergency access through the pedestrian plaza and to fire hydrants would be maintained in the plan.

Newtown Avenue in Astoria

DOT Division of Traffic and Planning New York City Plaza Program Director Vaidila Kungys said the intersection at Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue has “a very long history”. Only 11 percent of streets in Queens have more accidents,” Kungys said. Located at 28-37 29th St., P.S. 17 (Henry David Thoreau School) is one of 135 city schools that are part of the School Safety Program because of a high rate of accidents in the area. There were 49 accidents recorded at the Newtown Avenue and 30th Avenue intersection from 2006 to 2010, according to the DOT.

The curb extensions proposed for the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection are “concrete foldouts” designed to “calm traffic” and increase safety by making crossings shorter while accommodating all vehicles, including trucks. The school safety project retains existing parking (nine spaces) and construction is planned for the spring of 2013 at a cost of $400,000.

“The [P.S. 17] School Safety Project is moving forward [but] it doesn’t leave much room for public gathering,” Kungys said, offering the plaza as an alternative. “Astoria lacks open space [and] there is a serious need.” The New York City Plaza Program, launched in 2008, is part of the city’s effort to ensure that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of quality open space. In 2009, the Hellenic Orthodox Community of Astoria at St. Demetrios applied to the plaza program for the Newtown–30th Avenue space. The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition (CALDC) would maintain the space.

Kungys said the Newtown–30th Avenue intersection was also well suited for a public plaza because it is well served by public transit, has “great retail” and a large population living in multi-family dwellings without any outdoor space.

“Athens Square [Park] is nearby but even so, Astoria is one of 10 [New York City] communities that lacks open space,” he said.