Astoria is Changing! Is it Better or Worse?

I have  been living  in Astoria over  6 years  now  and  i  love  it . I have  seen  all the  changes that have  happened and  it has mostly happened recently . I am happy  there  is   a  much younger and more hip crowd , more bars and  restaurants , more options   for  young people as far as having  fun, more healthier food  options, better buildings , better  food choices, more  nightlife and just a better overall place  now  for  a younger  crowd.

While  all these  things  would  seem to make  Astoria better , i believe in my opinion that there  is  a  big downside too. Rent  has  skyrocketed to the  point where it  is  almost Manhattan prices ,  every block in Astoria seems  to have construction for  new buildings and  the  noise is unbearable, most of  the  mom and pops and old time restaurants and  bars have closed and  been replaced with overpriced hipster  bars and restaurants with average food  and  drinks.  

Too many young people from brooklyn and Manhattan have moved here to Astoria . No seats on the  subway train , rent is crazy , too many dog owners who do not  clean up after  their dog , and  Astoria now  has  a big Bedbug problem .    While  it is  nice  that Astoria is changing , i fear that just like some parts of  Brooklyn, it  will lose  its charm and  history and  become  just  a another overcrowded , expensive , hipster and noisy place  .

Astoria was  always  a  safe   area and  unlike some  parts of brooklyn that needed a change and  needed to become  safer , Astoria did not  need that . Sadly its  about the  bottom dollar and making  money in Astoria . And  while  i can  appreciate a better looking  and  younger crowd in Astoria and  more options for  a young adult  to enjoy  life, there  is  still too many negative things with  the  change .

The  sad thing  is with  a younger  crowd in Astoria now  , there is  also the bad  elements of  that . Every block in Astoria now  has dog poop or  human vomit from someone getting  drunk at the  new  bars from the  night before . People who lived in Astoria  before  it  became hip are now  being forced out because of higher rents and there  are  new buildings that are being  built in areas where  it  looks hideous next to the houses .

Because rent is  so high , many people are sharing the  apartments with so many different  roommates all the  time  and  because  of  that Bedbugs are in many places in Astoria now . I hope Astoria still keeps its original charm and  beauty and  not  become like many parts  of brooklyn like  Williamsburg, and  park slope or greenpoint where it is  just mostly bars  and  restaurants and starbucks and  all Duane reade or a bunch of organic cafes .  This  is  just my  opinion   and as a  person who loves  Astoria , i welcome  the  change  for  the  good and  hope  that  the  bad does  not get  worse .  

I welcome my fellow Astorian's to express their opinions here as well on this topic . Do you agree or disagree ?  What are your  thoughts ??   I would  love  to also hear from someone who like  me has  also lived  in astoria before  the  changes happened .

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Comment by Christopher Sahar on August 21, 2013 at 12:07pm

I have lived in Astoria since 1994 and some of what you say I believe is correct. Here are my thoughts -

To the building owner happy about the increase in rents, I do agree that up until about 2003- 2004 rents were too low and encouraged lanlords who did not live in their building to do only the minimum or make initial improvements to justify a modest increase and then just do only what was necessary. Since 2004, I think landlords and developers have an inflated view of what they can charge. Astoria has ample range of housing options but some of the new stuff being built is mediocre or will look like crap in a decade (think of some of the places in Flushing and Corona that were foisted up in the late 90s and look like they are already 30+ years old).  Yet, there remains landlords who prefer to have a good, steady paying tenant and rather keep rent increases modest and take good care of their buildings - good example are a few of the yellow/red brick  buildings in the 40's where the landlord lives there and has done their best to maintain the buildings and keep rent increases at a modest level, 

As for dog poo, yes I do not understand why we have this increase from newcomers - if a 80 year old man with a cane can pick up after their dog then I think a healthy 25 year old can too.  On the other hand garbage collections have been cut since 2008 resulting in more overflowing garbage cans on weekends.  Astoria suffered from the 2010 census as it showed inexplicably a drop in population which in turn made it a candidate for cut in such services.

Zoning - fortunately the politicains tried to reign in overdevelopment as old building zoning allowed for much of Astoria to be built well over 6 stories in many areas, southern portions of Astoria were allowed only light industrial buildings or near Queens Plaza high rises. At the same time NYC finally identified LIC/Astoria as a good area for commercial residential growth back in 2000.  So improvements were happening long before many of us came here. I think overall the quality of buildings are better than what developers were trying to build back in 2004 - 2008 and some of the cosntruction sites these very develoeprs had were quite unsafe.  For those seeking apartments check the year of new developments - anything built about 2004 - 2008 should be thoroughly checked as development was showing signs of getting out of control compared to now where it remains a risk but not as bad.  The zoning changes overall were beneficial if not ideal.

Bedbugs - Astoria has had a bed bug problem as far back as 2006 as the first outbreaks in this area were in the southern areas of Astoria and parts of LIC (actually in NYC I believe the first reports were in areas such as Corona and a few spots in Bronx and Brooklyn).  So this is not new.  There is a bedbug registry for the nation as this is a national problem. CHeck the registry before moving to a place.

Nightlife - There always has been things to do in Astoria and some nightlife. In 94 though you would likely find entertainment at a Greek taverna featuring bouzoki music (which i kick myself for not checking out!!), family affairs such as community fairs and parades (which you will still see when a chuch has a small parade showing the Virgin mary statue and donations usually in August). Plus Museum of Moving Image has been in the area since about early 90's, tons of great museums since the 80's.  The difference is there are more options in art and theater (btw - check out Secret Theater!!!! excellent productions) as well as more live music options (jazz at Domine's, Brasilian dance and Bulgarian punk rock at Cafe Bar, eclectic range of pop indie acts at Rest au Rant, etc).  

Blandness - the corridors o Astoria I feel have gotten a little bland are 30th Ave where the setting are beautiful but the food is just OK. Of course there are a few stand outs but I still find the best palces are a little off or near the main thoroughfares - just on 36th Ave  Ole the Spanish restaurant, Savory Cafe great French Patisserie, On The Nile for delicious Egyptian fare, Veronica's and Mad Donkey for unusual and friendly Irish bars,  Triskell for French Norman fare, Arepas for Vnezuelan ... etc and then classic such as Cronin and Phelan and new omers like Kickshaw on main thoroughfares such as Broadway or standbys like Brick Cafe on 31st Ave all continue to make the area attractive dining drinking places.

I think the biggest improvements to the area have not ben mentioned: additions or improvements to parks and playgrounds since the late 90's has made Astoria/LIC far greener (I recall going in the late 90's to see the July 4th fireworks when they had just one tiny little green spot and the first hi-rise they were offering places for under 200k!),  The increase in primary and secondary school options with the charter schools and groups organized to help parents navigate the many opportunities such as Astoria Moms.  The greater diversity in some ways of the population - it is nice to see an increase of buppies and more South Americans contriuting to the area - I mean I am unsure Sugarfreak would have been possible if it came to Astoria 20 years ago.  Also, to add to the complex dynamic of this area, many Greeks are coming to Astoria again as well as some Irish (the majority to Sunnyside and Woodside but many working in Astoria/LIC as well as Manahttan))

I think what Astoria does need as well as the city 1) huge boost of resources and trainign of building inspectors to dissuade overcrowding, safe work sites and sound construction 2) more litter baskets, stronger recycling efforts and increased trash collection on weekends 3) a slight increase in precincts manpower as the area get more populous and diversification of some of its units to be watchful of hate crimes and domestic violence (the former to combat a rising trend in NYC , the latter to address the fact that quite a few violent crimes in the area have arisen from domestic quarrels and dysfuntional situations)





Comment by Beau Gould on August 13, 2013 at 11:18am

I've lived in Astoria twice and have been hanging out there for around 20 years. I see no difference. It was as fun then as it is now. Perhaps there is more dog poo though. 

Comment by James Maxx on August 13, 2013 at 10:53am

As someone who has been born and raised in Astoria and lived there 30+ years I can tell you the changes are dramatic.  I do agree you have cooler bars, awesome restaurants and better nightlife but with that comes the hyper-inflated prices, overcrowding, overbuilding and strained public transit system.  Personally I welcome the rise in rents because I am a property owner :-D.  I see this expensive gentrification continuing as Manhattan becomes a playground for the upper-class and tourists.  People transfer to the city go to school or work and find more affordable places.  Brooklyn is already priced out so Sunnyside/Astoria are the next places to go.  I am glad that Astoria still has the old-school neighborhood vibe and hope it doesn't turn into a Williamsburg full of midwesterners that dress like crap and think they are New Yorkers.

Comment by Carlos on August 13, 2013 at 10:24am

I'm going on 12 years and it's way, way, way better than it was in 2001. I'm glad that I don't have to traipse into Brooklyn or the LES anymore for some great food, good times, cocktails and beer. Unfortunately, this has come at a cost. I was almost priced out of my neighborhood when I was looking for new apartments about 4 months ago. I was thankful that I was able to get an identical apartment for just a little more but I know that one day I won't be so lucky. Damn you, Supply&Demand.

Comment by Sarah Cahill on August 13, 2013 at 9:46am

I completely agree with you on the positives and the negatives happening to Astoria over the last few years. When I moved here 5 years ago it was because of the affordability for my roommates and I ($2,000 for a 3 bedroom! What?!), the safety of the neighborhood, and the old world charm. I think that the absolute ludicrous prices of Brooklyn has driven many in search of more affordable options - enter Astoria - and the demand has driven up prices to resemble places like Park Slope or even Manhattan. It is frustrating, because the many reasons I liked Astoria initially are disintegrating or completely gone. My husband and I were thinking of upgrading to a two bedroom, which now is completely unfeasible. It stinks, but that being said, there are a lot of positives in respect to better food and drink options. Mixed bag, I tell you!



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