By Jonathan Sperling
Old Astoria residents rejoiced Monday as the Department of Transportation began installing street cleaning signs in the area that will direct the Department of Sanitation to provide street cleaning in the area on one day per week per side.
For two decades, the nonprofit Old Astoria Neighborhood Association crusaded for street cleaning in the area bordered by Astoria Park South, 23rd Street, Broadway and the East River. Refuse consistently piled up on at least a dozen sections of street in the area, said OANA President Richard Khuzami, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1991.
“The majority of the streets were not clean, it’s unsightly in certain areas,” Khuzami told the Eagle. Khuzami added that the lack of street cleaning signage also provided zero incentive for drivers to leave their parking spots once there, enabling vehicles to sit in the same spot for months at a time. The stationary cars, combined with the accumulating refuse, negatively impacted residents’ quality of life and hurt business, Khuzami said.
DSNY had been in talks with OANA in the past about street cleaning, but Khuzami said that residents were upset because the agency initially insisted on cleaning the streets twice a week per side, rather than just once a week per side.
“It would disrupt everyone,” Khuzami told the Eagle.
After Khuzami walked through the neighborhood with 22nd District Councilmember Costa Constantinides and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Garcia ordered a study of possible street cleaning alternatives, which was published earlier this year.
"I am thrilled to see the new street cleaning rules will go into effect," said Constantinides. "I was proud to fight alongside the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association for this change, because cleaning rules should be uniform throughout Astoria because we are one neighborhood."
This tour, coupled with a community street cleanup that yielded 200 bags of refuse in just a few hours, led the DSNY to approve the street cleaning for once a week per side.
“That’s what it takes sometimes to get things done,” Khuzami told the Eagle. “We’ve been advocating this for 20 years, so we’re very, very happy this has happened,” he added.