For upwards of three decades, the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition has been dedicated to preserving the community and offering a broad range of services for small businesses, tenants and seniors, as well as cultural programs, including the popular Waterfront Concert Series, which has brought musical acts to Astoria Park since the 1990s.
However, it’s been a transformative last few years for Astoria, with new shops and development popping up as the neighborhood has emerged as one of Queens’ most desired places to live, a shift demonstrated in the coalition’s work.
Executive Director Marie Torniali says they have increasingly tacked issues of tenant harassment, once a relative non-issue that has increased in frequency throughout the gentrifying community.
“It’s a problem,” she said. “This neighborhood has seen a lot of changes.”
The organization works with tenants, seniors and immigrants to help them secure housing, giving them information, and helping them file for benefits and assistance programs including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), among other services.
“Anything that will help people with limited income stay in their homes,” said Torniali.
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30th Avenue between 30th Street and 29th Street will soon be co-named in honor of Dennis Syntilas, a founder of the Greek-American Homeowners Association who was also instrumental in establishing Astoria’s Athens Square Park.
“I am proud to honor Dennis Syntilas and his family with this street co-naming,” said City Council Member Costa Constantinides, who co-sponsored the co-naming bill. “His contributions to his community have been longstanding. This recognition will forever commemorate his tireless work and contributions to our city.”
Immigrating to the U.S. from Greece in 1956, the Atlantic Bank executive and neighborhood activist founded the organization which helped connect Greek-Americans with government resources and promoted civic engagement. He passed away in January of this year.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Citi announced Doorways To Opportunity, a new economic empowerment initiative in Astoria. As a part of the program, residents of public housing in Astoria will be offered services that provide a means to break the cycle of poverty including: job placement, tax preparation, financial counseling, work force development, technology tools development, and entrepreneurial training.
The Central Astoria LDC will kick off their waterfront series next Thursday with Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band.
Come out to the Great Lawn to enjoy some of Johnny Cash’s most celebrated hits.
The concert will take place on July 23 at 7:30 p.m. on the Great Lawn of Astoria Park, on Shore Blvd. between the Hell Gate Bridge and Astoria Pool.
The series will continue on Thursday evenings, July 30th through August 13th with live performances by “Piece of the Rock”, “Dancin’ Machine”, and “Spitfire”.
For the second year, Astoria’s Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens has been chosen to host water-safety organization ZAC Foundation’s annual ZAC Camp.
Open to area children ages 5 to 9 and their families, the camp will include swimming classes, classroom curriculum and various other hands-on activities to learn techniques to stay safe near water.
The camp will take place from Monday, July 27th through Thursday, July 30th from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
Chosen through a rigorous application process, the ZAC Foundation said Variety Boys & Girls club was picked as the site for this year’s camp because of its continued dedication to water safety.
“Zachary’s legacy lives on in each and every Boys & Girls Club member who graduates from ZAC Camp,” said Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation. “We are excited to be back in Queens to bring our message of water safety to a new batch of campers and their families at Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens.”
Gladys Reyes-Fermin, aquatics coordinator for the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, said the program had been extremely successful last year.
“Our kids are still talking about how much fun they had at ZAC Camp last summer,” she said. “While the Camps are fun for campers, they are leaving with valuable lessons that we see in their changes in behavior and we know the impact ZAC Camps had. That’s priceless.”
Established in 2008 by Brian and Karen Cohn after the loss of they 6-year-old son Zachary in their backyard pool, the ZAC Foundation aims to educate and prepare children and their families for a lifetime of water safety.
2015’s Waterfront Concert Series will kick off on Astoria Park’s waterfront tomorrow, with a performance by the Cab Calloway Orchestra. The orchestra will be playing jazz in the Big Band Swing Jazz Orchestra style which, from the park’s website: “came bursting out of the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom in the Harlem Renaissance during the 30’s and 40’s.”
Thursday’s begins at 7:30 p.m. and ends by 9 p.m.
The concert series will extend through August 24, and will feature concerts from performers such as the Swingtime Big Band as well as movies, including Ghostbusters and The Incredibles.
Click here for this summer’s full schedule.
Queens and Brooklyn-bound cyclists alike now have an easier commute, with a protected bike lane now open on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which connects the two boroughs. Before, cyclists had to dismount their bikes and walk them over the half-mile bridge.
“The challenge we have in New York City is accommodating our growing and changing city and serving all the diverse needs it has,” said Ryan Russo, Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Planning and Management for the DOT. “If you came here before we implemented the bike lane you really had no accommodation for the fastest growing transportation mode in New York City, which is bicycling.”
The bridge, which connects an industrial stretch of Greenpoint Ave., draws heavy truck traffic. Russo said although the site wasn’t a particularly high-crash zone, the lack of a bike lane next to substantial traffic presented a heightened risk.
“[Cyclists] were literally taking their lives in their hands just going to their jobs, or their friends house,” he said.
DOT Deputy Commissioner Russo and DOT employees ride on the new bike lane.