Astoria, NY – Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., Assembly Member Michael Gianaris and State Senator George Onorato were outraged to learn that the New York City Department of Transportation would not place a temporary bridge structure at the Steinway Street overpass until mid-January 2005. The bridge originally collapsed on July 23rd 2004, seriously injuring one motorist. At a meeting on September 2, 2004, at Vallone’s office, the DOT assured everyone that a temporary bridge would be in place by Thanksgiving.
Vallone and Gianaris hosted an emergency meeting on November 22, 2004 at the Immigration Advocacy Services Building located at 24-40 Steinway Street, from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. This meeting included representatives from NYC DOT New York City Department of Small Business Services and over 65 local merchants and business owners.
At this meeting DOT officials reiterated that the bridge would not open until mid January because of safety concerns. Merchants and business owners were outraged by this news and called for compensation and tax relief. The Department of Small Business Services stated that in conjunction with Vallone and the NYCDOT an advertising blitz highlighting the Steinway Street area will begin on this Friday, November 26, 2004.
“It’s unacceptable that the city is able to pay $600 million for a publicly financed stadium but isn’t able to help compensate these suffering businesses”, stated Vallone. “I think some sort of tax relief is necessary.”
“We were assured on more than one occasion that this bridge would be in place by mid-November. We are now being told that the city can’t live up to its promise,” stated Vallone. “This closure has been devastating to our community and these merchants were counting on the City to replace this bridge in time for the Christmas shopping season. I am demanding that these suffering businesses be compensated”.
NYCDOT, while not willing to speed up the opening of the bridge, will look at traffic patterns on surrounding streets. Meeting attendees asked them to look especially at changing the pattern on 43rd Street to create two-way traffic into the Steinway area.
“I am committed to ensuring that the Steinway Street overpass is re-opened as quickly as possible and I am upset that it is taking so long to accomplish despite assurances from the City that it would be done by now,” said Gianaris. “This new delay puts the burden on the City to make sure that our local businesses are given the support they need to survive until things return to normal. I will provide my full support to local merchants to help them get through this difficult time and look forward to the day when business on this part of Steinway Street is thriving again.”
“We were told that this bridge would be in place by mid-November. I am very disappointed with the timetable. I had hoped that it would coincide with the holiday season”, stated Onorato.