ASTORIA – Under bright blue skies, members of the community gathered to help clean up Astoria on September 16.The event, organized by the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA) and the Family Church, with partners the Astoria Houses Residents Association, New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas helped bring attention to the inconsistent street cleaning rules in the neighborhood.
Participants met at Family Churchin Astoria at noon for lunch and instructions. Lunch was donated by Latino Employee Resource Network.
OANA President Richard Khuzami said of the event, “This is the only way, after 4 years of trying to reason with [the Department of] Sanitation, that the needs of Old Astoria can be met. Nothing reflects the quality of a neighborhood more than cleanliness!”
“I’m excited to work with OANA, the Family Church, Astoria Houses Residents Association, and our local partners to ensure our neighborhood stays clean,” said Council Member Constantinides, District 22. “A clean street can do wonders for the overall health of a community, which is why we sometimes must step up to make that happen.”
“Currently the Sanitation Department will not clean streets unless residents accept 4 times per week. (Twice on each side),” Khuzami noted, adding that “we are not asking that Sanitation clean every street. We feel that this is up to the residents of each street. But what we are asking is that the default be 2 times per week (Once on each side). This gives residents an incentive to ask for street cleaning!”
“Another added benefit to street cleaning is that we will stop the parking of cars for extended periods of time. Residents lose precious parking spots! We should not be the long-term parking lot for New York City,” Khuzami said.
Participants were assigned to one of five color-coded groups, blue, red, orange, green, and purple, with each group assigned to certain streets of Astoria. A map was provided with the streets highlighted in the colors of each group. Bags, brooms and gloves were donated by R&R General Supply Corp. After the group assignments, the participants, among them many young people and families, headed out to clean the streets at about 1:30 PM and continued until about 5:30 PM.
Before the groups headed out, Constantinides thanked everyone for their presence and their commitment to a cleaner Astoria. He said that although Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas could not attend the event, they supported the community effort.
Constantinides noted that the participants were giving their most valuable resource, their time, for the community. He said, “We want cleaner streets. The challenge is the lack of uniformity in street cleaning rules. Certain neighborhoods have no street cleaning, others have it four times a week. There should be one rule for the entire community.”
Khuzami thanked all those in attendance including the President of the Astoria Houses Residents Association Claudia Coger, Council Member Constantinides for all his efforts in the community, Pastor Lucas Izidoro of Family Church whose parishioners made up the majority of the participants at the event, and community member Kevin Hernandez who was among the first to start the effort for a cleaner neighborhood years ago. Khuzami noted that among all the elected officials there is no comparison to Constantinides and his tireless support for the community he serves.
More information about OANA is available online: oana-ny.org.