Critics: Third Ave. piazza will be a haven for drunks

Critics: Third Ave. piazza will be a haven for drunks
James Law speaks out against a plan to shut down eight blocks of Third Avenue on four nights this summer to create an outdoor pedestrian plaza.
Community Newspaper Group / Dan MacLeod

A plan to turn eight blocks of Third Avenue into a pedestrian plaza this summer will create havoc for residents already beleaguered by stumbling booze hounds who regularly puke and relieve themselves on neighborhood front lawns, critics to the controversial proposal told members of Community Board 10 this week.

“Every Friday and Saturday we have to clean up broken glass and vomit,” said Lenny Variano, who lives a block away on 84th Street. “It’s disgusting.”

Merchants and civic leaders want to install a car-free zone on Third Avenue between 81st and 89th streets on four Fridays in July and August, but neighbors said that the proposed “Summer Stroll” would simply ramp up the number of area revelers that already smash bottles and urinate on their property after spending the night partying it up at local bars.

Yet organizers defended the plan to shut down car traffic from 6 pm to 10:30 pm.

“I’m as sick as you are of the drinking, the vomiting, the urinating and the sexual stuff,” said Chuck Otey, who explained that a temporary piazza bustling with string quartets and doo-wop singers would bring class to the boulevard and ward off party animals. “If you want to give the streets over to the drunks, ignore this proposal. Turn this down and you’re saying, ‘screw the arts.’”

The Merchants of Third Avenue initially wanted to close the avenue between 82nd and 92nd streets on nine Fridays, but tweaked the plan after local business owners rejected it. Now, the piazza will be smaller and the side streets will be open to traffic with cops and Department of Transportation workers acting as crossing guards. Any sale of alcohol will be limited to businesses participating in the Summer Stroll.

Still, some residents remained skeptical that cops would exercise crowd control.

“[I’m concerned about] double parking, people parking in our driveways and the spillover from people drinking,” said Florence Dean, who lives on 90th Street.

But merchants scoffed at the notion that marauding mobs would plague the piazza.

“Rowdy teenagers are not going to want to stand around and listen to a string quartet,” said Bina Valenzano, an organizer of the program and owner of the Book Mark Shoppe between 84th and 85th streets. “If it’s boring, there are going to leave.”

The plan, which was approved CB 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee on Tuesday night, is pending the full board’s approval later this month — a decision that could plant Bay Ridge on a growing list of Brooklyn neighborhoods with similar summertime pedestrian plazas, including Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

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