Third Avenue piazza plan advances

A proposal to bring a car-free piazza to Third Avenue between81st and 89th Streets this summer has cleared another hurdle asCommunity Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee has votedto approve the Merchants of Third Avenue’s (MTA) proposal forSummer Stroll on 3rd, despite concerns from some residents aboutcongested traffic, double parking and drunken revelers.

The committee voted to recommend that the full board impose somestipulations, though, including that participating businesses allowanyone to use their bathrooms and that, where relevant, merchantsmust mark storefronts as wheelchair-accessible.

The Summer Stroll on 3rd is slated to be a series of outdooractivities over four Friday evenings this summer that aims to bringBrooklyn residents near and far to sample Bay Ridge dance andtheatrical performances, art exhibits, music, food, spa samples andmore.

I’m happy that people had an opportunity to speak their mind,said committee Chair Brian Kieran, who presided over the February 7event. Most people here, if they didn’t actively support the idea,weren’t condemning it. The concerns raised would happen already ona Friday night.

That didn’t do much to put skeptics at ease. The proposal ismuch better thought out than last year, but there are twosignificant holes: police safety enforcement and double-parking,blocking of driveways and the [general] spillover effect of peoplebeing rowdy, said Florence Dean of 90th Street. I want to supportthe merchants, but the problem shouldn’t be foisted onto sidestreets.

I appreciate the attempt to limit alcohol, but every year, 30to 50 people are just standing in the street, drinking, smoking,congregating and it doesn’t sound like what you’re trying toaccomplish, said Christine Gallo. I love everything else, but howwill you pull it off?

Captain Richard DiBlasio, the commanding officer of the 68thPrecinct, said officers will be on hand for whatever crowd controlis needed, with the precinct planning as it usually does for publicevents such as parades and the Third Avenue Festival.

In addition, said MTA President Robert Howe, the planners haveconsidered community board and resident concerns in this proposal,and merchants tell us this isn’t something they want – this issomething they need.

The Summer Stroll is another tool in our arsenal to combat boxstores and outlet malls in Staten Island and New Jersey, addedHowe. Merchants are also residents and are looking forward to thisevent.

In response to merchants not on the strip feeling left out, MTAExecutive Secretary Chuck Otey said that he hopes the Summer Strollcan be made into a moveable feast.

I live on 72nd Street and know that the battle is to bringbusiness down to the [70s] stretch, but this won’t pull businessaway because only [a small percentage] of businesses will be open,said Otey. So we’ll have a [printed] program listing other placeson Third Avenue where people can go for a nice experience.

According to the application, the event would be held from 6p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on July 20 and 27, and August 10 and 17. Unlikethe Third Avenue Festival, there would be no amplified sound, nooverhead cables, no outside vendors, no generators and bleachers,no open flames, no rides and no alcohol sales outside ofrestaurants.

There would also be a lane of at least 15 feet for emergencyvehicles to pass through if needed. Bus stops for the B70 wouldtemporarily be moved over to Fourth Avenue. The plan now goes tothe full board for a vote at its Monday, February 28, meeting,before the Department of Transportation, which must approve it,makes a decision.

The Summer Stroll on 3rd is similar to existing SummerStreets and Weekend Walks programs in Manhattan and northernBrooklyn neighborhoods.

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