Elm Avenue plaza plan postponed!

Midwood residents: We don’t need a nightmare on Elm Avenue
The Department of Transportation wants to convert this patch of concrete at Avenue M, Elm Street, and E. 15th Street into a gravel pedestrian plaza with metal tables and chairs — but not all Midwood residents are cheering the plan.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The city has postponed a controversial plan to convert a small street near Avenue M into a pedestrian plaza — a surprise move that has led opponents to believe that neighborhood support for the project is waning.

“I think the forces are rallying against it now,” said Mike Pessah, a Midwood resident who has been vociferous in his opposition to the plan to close Elm Avenue between East 15th Street and Avenue M to traffic to free up space for the plaza — which the city wants to call Dorman Square. “Most people were saying it was a done deal.”

Community Board 14 was scheduled to vote on the plaza at its April 16 meeting, but the Department of Transportation asked civic leaders for more time at the eleventh hour so it could win over a surprisingly restive community.

Residents have lashed out against the city’s plan on multiple fronts, claiming that the Department of Transportation did not take concerns about traffic into account, neglected to consult Hatzolah volunteer ambulance members, and scheduled a hearing about the plaza two days before Passover, making it difficult for Orthodox residents to attend.

Facing so many critics, the city asked CB14 to hold off on its vote, board leaders said.

“The DOT asked us to defer consideration on it while they reach out further to garner support,” said Alvin Berk, the chairman of CB14.

But the city hasn’t reached out to the plan’s critics. Representatives from Hatzolah said they hadn’t been contacted by the city — and remain skeptical of the plan.

“We believe that its going to back up traffic and any time that happens that’s not good for us,” said Moishe Williger, a spokesperson for the organization. “But if they get in touch with us, we’ll speak to them.”

A local legislator has also joined the effort to oppose the plaza: Councilman Michael Nelson (D—Midwood) said the city’s plaza idea was an “attractive nuisance.”

“Dorman Square will serve no useful purpose and will not result in any positive contribution to the community,” Nelson said.

Representatives from the Department of Transportation refused to comment or explain why the agency asked to have the vote postponed — but promised that no major changes were being considered for the plaza.

Supporters of the plan said they had no problem with the city taking more time to carefully consider the situation.

“It’s just part of the due process,” said Linda Goodman, the director of the Midwood Development Corporation, which developed the plaza plan along with the city. “Hopefully they will present additional facts about the traffic and then a good decision can be made.”

Berk said CB14 would most likely vote on the plan on May 14, provided that the city hasn’t made any significant changes that would warrant another hearing.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

More from Around New York