Public plazas are bad for business

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Along with my brother Daniel, and my father Sydney, we own the Foodtown of Bay Ridge. First, please allow me to thank you for all the business you give us and please allow me to thank our staff for all their hard work serving you. With all due respect, please know that we are opposed to pedestrian malls like the one proposed along Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. Here’s why.

We and our staff work hard to have low prices, high quality, high service levels, and a strong weekly sales program. We would loose a great deal of business if the street were closed off. There are other days of the year when the street is closed (Third Ave festival, etc.) and on those days our business drops off severely.

We typically have about 50 people working on Friday afternoons and evenings and these people would lose these shifts (and the pay that comes with it) if the proposed mall were passed. This is what happens during the Festival.

In addition, customers would have no driving access to our store. This will severely inconvenience our customers whom we are charged to serve.

Friday is payday for many people. It is common that many of our regular customers come and shop during the afternoon and evening for groceries then. In fact, it is our busiest night of the week. We need our Friday night business to make up for slow times during the week.

If the side streets remain open so that cars can get through, this will not work near our store because the side streets do not line up over 89th street, so cars will not be able to get to our store. Also, we rely heavily on the entire Third Avenue corridor for parking and access to our store. With the street closed, it will choke existing parking making the parking issue for us more severe.

We run two vans for home deliveries (many to senior citizens) every night throughout the proposed area. It will be nearly impossible to deliver home orders anywhere near this mall if this is passed. The van must park as the orders are delivered on the very side streets and along Third Avenue where this mall is proposed. This is unworkable for our business operations because all parking and access will be choked off in the area.

We have a store one block from Yankee stadium that does virtually no business before games. We knew that when we bought that store. Please don’t change the rules in the middle of the game in Bay Ridge.

Noah Katz is co-president of Foodtown, which has a location on Third Avenue at 91st Street.

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Reader Feedback

Charlie from Bay Ridge says:
"We have a store one block from Yankee stadium that does virtually no business before games."

Maybe it's because the streets around Yankee Stadium are so jammed with cars before games that no one in their right mind would run an errand or go grocery shopping near there.

Your essay is long on personal anecdote but short on facts. Public plazas are great for business. See Times Square, Herald Square and more. More people, bigger businesses, and they don't seem to have a problem getting or making deliveries as well as making a ton of money.
June 10, 2011, 8:49 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Sidewalks are for pedestrians. (Not bikes)

Streets are for vehicles; Cars, trucks, bikes.

Shops are where you do business not the bazaar.

Simple, no?
June 10, 2011, 8:59 am
Joe from Crown Heights says:
Everything is what it is and it can't be anything different. Not even for five hours, once a week as a trial. Silly, no?
June 10, 2011, 10:05 am
Danny G from Queens says:
Perhaps the headline should read: "Public Plazas are Bad for my Supermarket's Current Business Model".

If he were more business-savvy, he'd tap into the added foot traffic and fill the parking lot with fruits and veggies and move a few cashiers outside to rake in the cash.
June 10, 2011, 10:15 am
Jacob from Clinton Hill says:
How will we ever know if they are good or bad for business if we are terrified of even experimenting with them, even for a small period of time?

The results in Herald Square and Times Square were great for business. I realize that Bay Ridge is quite different, but why not give it a shot? One day of plaza is definitely NOT going to hurt a business much at all, it will certainly give some needed public space, and it is very possible that it will give business a boost.
June 10, 2011, 10:23 am
Howard from Bay Ridge says:
If Katz' business is so fragile that it would collapse due to a few hours of street closures once a week for just about two months, it probably would fail regardless of the proposed pedestrian malls.

Try it, see if it works, collect some data, and then let us know.
June 10, 2011, 11:29 am
Sajh from herald sq says:
Bay Ridge is a different animal. A good portion of the housing stock around 3rd Ave is houses with driveways. I cant say that those houses drive to the food store (I'm thinking no as it would probably be more of a hassel (not enough parking as it is). However I dont see plaza's being a benefit to Bay Ridge. The population density isnt there. More plaza's in Brooklyn Heights or downtown Brooklyn, even Carroll Gardens, sure. But it makes no sense to invest tax payer money in Bay Ridge. How about a dedicated rail connect across the Verrazano bridge? That would make sense.
June 10, 2011, 11:54 am
bigO from bk says:
So if you build a street plaza.. people will stop eating?
June 10, 2011, 12:10 pm
TomW says:
One thought:

Groceries are, for the most part, a necessity. While Friday might be their busy day, if people are unable to shop that day, they're not going to go without groceries for a week. Their business will likely shift to Thursday or Saturday. I guess that some people might insist on shopping on Friday and would go to other stores but that's more a loyalty issue for Foodtown rather than a convenience issue.
June 10, 2011, 12:44 pm
teegee from sunset park says:
i'll bet all the commenters in favor are hipsters living termporarily in nyc and getting a check from mommy. the have no idea of what it means to earn and living to support your family. plazas are great in tourist areas, but bay ridge is a "live in" neighborhood. i smell a rat in this - i'll double my previous bet and say the state senator golden is pushing this on behalf of some 3rd avenue bar owners. a night time pedestrian plaza? the area will be flooded with half-baked hipsters on bar crawls. where was golden when bay ridge was crying over a lack of supermarkets? i'm so glad i don't live near there. each argument of the business owner, if not a fact, was a solid prediction. but let's try it for a month and have state senator golden pay out of his NYPD pension for the stores loss of business and the lost salaries of employees.
June 10, 2011, 12:57 pm
Public Servant from Clinton Hill says:
Maybe the title should be "Why temporary street closures can be bad for business" because the Third Ave project is not proposed to be a permanent closure.
June 10, 2011, 1:51 pm
Arlen from Bay Ridge says:
Lifelong resident of Bay Ridge and raised three kids here, teegee. I'm in favor of the temporary street closures and I haven't received a check from mommy since my bar mitzvah in 1964.

I don't understand why you need to stereotype people who want to try new things for the neighborhood.
June 10, 2011, 2:52 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Believe it or not, vehicular traffic and parking is needed for good business, and Katz hit that on the head. Placing plazas on streets is actually a bad idea. What it does in the long run is force traffic to be relocated onto other streets. Even worse, they get placed on major thoroughfares, where most of the traffic is. As for Times and Hearld Squares, those plazas actually made traffic around them even worse, and some bus lines that were relocated to the surrounding avenues were stopped. Also, what good will a pedestrian plaza serve when the weather is bad outside? The answer is that it will be seen as a wasted space. At least roads are used by motor vehicles 365 days a year.
June 10, 2011, 10:30 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
That last comment couldn't have been me, because I was away from my computer last night at 10:30 p.m., caught in a traffic jam on the Major Deegan caused by all the cars leaving Yankee Stadium. It was quite clear to me that no one would drive to Mr. Katz's supermarket in the Bronx on a Friday night, but they wouldn't walk to his supermarket in Bay Ridge on Friday nights, either, if the street was closed.
June 11, 2011, 6:20 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- will you stop posting outright lies and made up "facts."

Where are these statistics that show the surrounding areas of Times Square and Herald Square is oh so much worse? Because, ya know what, it's NOT. In fact, by many measures it has improved overall traffic speeds.... slower, but more actual movement (not fast, stop).

In other words, STOP having a made up opinion about almost every damn article. Try to actually research what you decide to comment on and base it on facts, not just what you've heard through the grapevine or what you think sounds like a fact.
June 11, 2011, 7:36 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, nice impersonation, because you lost on that. First off, I wasn't back at home until just now. After I was finished at work, I went to Newark to cath the Liberty home opener. There are already pedestrian areas known as parks and squares. Public plazas do tend to be a driving force for gentrification and mostly chains and corporations. Tell me a a public plaza that has local businesses on them, because out of the many I have seen, none of them have any. Also, show me where they are used when the weather is bad, because a lot of times they are not unless it's by those who like to brave the weather, which happen to be the few.
June 11, 2011, 11:28 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- that wasn't me impersonating you. I wouldn't bother doing that.

And I like how you keep going with the anecdotal and made up arguments. You do realize that MOST people in this city DO NO DRIVE. They "brave" the weather everyday because that's how you get around. This isn't the suburbs of Omaha. We don't get in our car inside our garage and park in a huge parking lot... We take the subway, the bus, our bicycles... and OUR FEET everywhere.
June 12, 2011, 12:03 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, cut the personal attacks, and talk like an adult to which you are not one. Not all of NYC has access to transit. There are part of of the city, and I am including the outer boroughs here, that do NOT have mass transit available for them, so they need to drive to get around. Pedestrianizing streets forces to move traffic elswhere, it doesn't just magically disappear. If it happens to be a major thoroughfare, it will be even worse and there is a reason why some streets have that name. I am surprised you forgot about the buses that were relocated to 7th Avenue after Broadway was closed off to them as the MTA decided to stop those lines in the claim that it made traffic there worse not that long ago.
June 12, 2011, 3:02 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- you're just wrong. You are making claims about X based on Y. Are the plaza programs being implemented in neighborhoods that "need" their cars? No.

So, how does this affect you quality of like in Pleasantville?
June 12, 2011, 5:11 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, do you even know what a major thoroughfare even is before making such a claim? They are defined as a street that goes both ways and is usually known for being heavily used for traffic not to mention having most of the business on them. I take it that those of you who don't drive don't know the car terms. Just because this isn't an autocentric area doesn't mean that it will work. Even Jane Jacobs didn't believe in removing streets that were considered major, because she said that it was destroying neighborhoods that already existed. Also, public plazas seem more for tourists than they are for locals. BTW, I am still waiting for you to tell me a plaza that doesn't have any chains or corporations near them.
June 12, 2011, 7:10 pm
Steve from Bklyn says:

Here's the deal - please meet us in front of the Brooklyn Paper offices, One Metrotech Center, and we'll discuss this in person. Name your day and time and we'll meet you there. Please bring research on your traffic theories. Until you do, please do not comment here.
June 13, 2011, 8:23 am
Mike says:
It's bad to be condescending, but it's even worse when you have no idea what you're talking about.
June 13, 2011, 9:18 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville says:
The earliest I can do because of my schedule and driving times will be Thursday at 1 PM but it may be closer to 2 PM if I have to find a parking spot near Metrotech Center, which is a perfect example of city planning and a place where driving is bad.

I have pages of information I have typed from blog comments and other commenters proving that public plazas, bike lanes, and more are bad for businesses and for pedestrians who don't need to walk to get groceries when cars will take them there much faster.
June 13, 2011, 12:25 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Quit trying to silence or even impersonate me, because it's not helping you. Also, this isn't your own private website where only your kind gets to speak, while everyone else can't. For the record, I have never silenced you so stop doing it to me. I tend to think long term rather than short term. You guys had your say, so let Katz have his say. If he thinks that it's wrong, then it is wrong, and he is entitled to this. BTW, I was never even here at 12:25 PM, because I was out for most of the day, so it had to be one of you. Again, not everyone has access to mass transit, so there are those who do need to drive.
June 13, 2011, 4:42 pm
Mike says:
Wow. Information from blog comments proving you're right. That's incredibly convincing. Because everyone knows blog comments are the highest form of scholarship.
June 13, 2011, 10:37 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mike, you fail to realize that this is a point/counterpoint piece. Paul Steely White got to have his say, so I don't see why Noah Katz can't have his say on pedestrian plazas. The whole point here is to hear one side that is in favor, while hearing one side that is opposed. Perhaps, Katz sees something that your kind doesn't. Either way, it's no right to make personal attacks on him let alone those that agree with him such as myself.
June 14, 2011, 8:28 pm
Mike says:
This article isn't even ABOUT pedestrian plazas! It's about temporarily closing entire streets at certain hours. Totally different thing!

And NO ONE is making personal attacks on Mr. Katz, misinformed though he may be.
June 15, 2011, 10:19 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I still think that it's a bad idea. What if it rains on the day the street closes? Will they decided to have it open to vehicular traffic since it won't be used that day or still keep it closed anyway? I have never liked the idea of Summer Streets when they were first introduced, and I can remember when Commuter Outrage showed the reality of that event. When Park Avenue and Broadway (below Union Square) was closed off, it was shown that not everyone went the whole route. Why do you need to close off a street just for mall? What's wrong with it the way it is? As for attacking Katz, I wouldn't be surprised if I went over to Streetsblog to see many attacking him there if not here.
June 15, 2011, 11:54 am
Joseph from Bay Ridge says:
"When Park Avenue and Broadway (below Union Square) was closed off, it was shown that not everyone went the whole route."

So is the LIE only worth it if people drive from one end to the other? Do you have to drive the entire length of Broadway to justify its existence or is it okay for cars to travel on it for just a few blocks. An honest question, Tal.
June 15, 2011, 4:34 pm
Mike says:
Wow. So incoherent. Tal is like the Marty Markowitz of this website.
June 16, 2011, 12:23 am
mike from GP says:
I think Tal IS Marty Markowitz! ;)
June 16, 2011, 9:02 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How typical that the anti-car fanatics resort to personall attacks when they can't back their claims. This is nothing but a path of the weak and cowardly. Relating me to Markowitz is a real low even for you guys. To answer Joseph, I have driven some streets from end to end at times, so they are needed for vehicular traffic. There is a reason they are known as major thoroughfares to begin with otherwise they wouldn't have them.
June 16, 2011, 11 pm

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