July 23, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
An Astoria-based group that oversees the 31st Avenue Open Street is calling on the public to help it come up with a logo that best reflects its organization.
The group, called the 31st Avenue Open Street Collective, is currently holding a logo competition, with the individual who comes up with the best design to be awarded with a dinner for two at Zenon Taverna, a Greek-Cypriot restaurant located at 34-10 31st Ave.
The collective, a volunteer group that manages the open street on 31st Avenue, started soliciting logos on Wednesday and will be accepting them through Tuesday, Aug. 10. Submissions can be sent via email ([email protected]) or through Instagram.
The winner will be selected by popular vote, either through Instagram or the group’s website.
The organization oversees 31st Avenue from 33rd to 35th streets, which is completely closed off to traffic and parking on Saturdays and Sundays, between the hours of 12 p.m. and 11 p.m. since June 5.
The volunteers organize events during those days. For instance, on Saturday, there will be a DJ spinning music, a non-profit selling baked goods and a group distributing seeds to promote gardening.
The concept of completely closing off the street stems from a DOT program that was launched shortly after the pandemic broke out.
In July, a quarter-mile stretch of 31st Avenue from 31st Street to 36th Street was designated for pedestrians and cyclists 7-days per week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with vehicular traffic limited to emergency vehicles, residents and local deliveries.
But it was difficult to organize events along the stretch on a constant basis, organizers said, which led drivers moving the barricades and driving through the area–making pedestrians nervous about using the space. The hours of operation were modified, with the open street now being exclusively on weekends, with all traffic closed off.
“Moving to the weekend format has helped us get a lot more programming out there and make it more consistent, and it’s been a big success so far,” said Cormac Nataro, one of a group of approximately 35 volunteers helping to maintain the open street.
Nataro says that the group sets up Times Square-style tables and chairs on Saturdays and Sundays and puts up the barricades. Children often use the space, he said, to play games or do artwork.
“It really changes the way you think about what the street is, what public space is, and how we can use public space in the city in a really exciting way,” said Nataro.
Evie Hantzopoulos, a local resident and recent city council candidate, and Macartney Morris of the pro-biking advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, applied for the open street permit last year and said people are embracing the open-street concept.
“As people are hearing about it or walking by and seeing it, I think more and more people are seeing it as an amenity for the community,” said Hantzopoulos. “It helps give people the opportunity to just be outside without having to schlep a long way because Astoria Park is a mile away.”