On the Record
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 30, 2008 | 3035 views | 0 0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Coalition for a Better Astoria is a relatively new organization on the scene in Western Queens, but the more than a dozen members of the coalition, representing almost 1,000 people in virtually every part of the borough west of LaGuardia Airport, make it extremely influential.

The coalition was founded as a direct response to the Con Edison’s plans to sell a portion of their land to Federal Express for the purposes of creating a new shipping hub.

“I was a member of the Astoria chapter of Democracy for New York City, a good-government group, and when we heard about the potential for the Fed Ex plant, we reached out to a number of other organizations to form the Coalition for A Better Astoria,” said Chairman Costa Constantindes. “The group’s first objective was to provide as much information to the community as possible.”

An April 30th town hall meeting successfully spread the word about the plans, and the group continued to work with the companies involved in the deal, who were not responsive, and local elected officials, who have come out against the shipping hub.

“The more information we got about Fed Ex’s plans, the worse it looked for the neighborhood,” Constantindes said.

The idea of even more truck traffic clogging the already congested streets does not appeal to Constantindes, nor does the transformation of the property (currently a fenced-off patch of open space) into a large shipping hub.

“It’s a travesty that they would pave over grass and a little stream and turn it gray, especially since it’s across from a soccer field,” he said.

The coalition polled neighbors to see what they would like done with the property, and the majority said that they would like to see a park or school there.

The Coalition for a Better Astoria continues to reach out to the public, politicians, and even Con Ed and Fed Ex. They are petitioning the Public Safety Commission for a role in the approval process for the sale of the property, and are planning on filing an injunction against Con Ed once they make a formal request for approval.

Once the issue of the sale and the future of the property is settled, Constantindes believes that the Coalition has too much momentum to disband.

“We formed to combat this sale, and when it’s resolved, there are plenty of other issues that these groups have in common I think we’ll stick together, but right now we’re in the middle of a big issue,” he said.

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