May 12, 2022 Op-Ed By Domenico Pinto, Founder of Ferrari Driving School
For years, Astoria has been a magnet for immigrants and other working class people trying to make it in New York.
That’s what made Steinway Street a place where neighbors shared meals, people came from all over to do their shopping and merchants like us chased our version of the American dream. But that was a long time ago.
On Steinway here in Astoria, just like other “Main Streets” all over the city, there’s been a big decline, and it started way before we were all forced to close during the pandemic. For lots of our neighbors, though, that was the final blow.
It was hard watching our friends and neighbors close their stores for good knowing the blood, sweat and tears they put into those businesses. Now, dozens of stores up and down Steinway are vacant. Long-time merchants, newcomers, it doesn’t matter – they’ve all gone away. And with crime going up, garbage in the streets and everything costing more, the rest of us are wondering if we’re going to be the next to have to close forever.
Lately, though, we have some hope. Kaufman Astoria Studios is joining forces with some other companies to rebuild the area where Steinway Street meets Northern Boulevard. That part of the neighborhood was never really as nice as the rest of Steinway, with mostly warehouses, parking lots and empty buildings. Basically, there’s almost no reason for most people to be there.
But that can all be replaced soon by new apartments, parks, offices and stores that will bring more people to that end of Steinway.
More people living, working and visiting Astoria means a lot more people spending money at our businesses. And putting something new and welcoming down there means people already shopping around here will have a reason to walk down to where most of them don’t go now.
We’ve been trying to hang on the last few years, and we want to stay here. But that’s not enough. We also want to be able to grow. And now, we may have a chance. We hope that when it’s time to vote on Innovation QNS, our Community Board and our elected officials will think about us and what we’ve been through and what we need and vote yes.
Domenico Pinto is the owner of Ferrari Driving School and an advocate for the Innovation QNS development.