Elm Avenue plaza plan returns

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 hasn’t given up on its plan to bring a pedestrian plaza to Avenue M — even though residents would rather see a community garden there instead of a bustling public square.

City reps met with Midwood Councilman Mike Nelson’s staff last week and again pushed their plan to put in chairs, tables and concrete bollards on Elm Avenue, even though the councilman opposed the project, said Chaim Deustch, Nelson’s chief of operations.

“We still oppose the pedestrian plaza,” Deustch said. “But we did say we’re willing to make the area less of an eyesore and beautify it with greenery and nice flowers.”

But the city’s plans for the plaza, which it wanted to call Dorman Square, are far more ambitious.
The Department of Transportation wanted to close Elm Avenue to traffic between E. 15th Street and Avenue M to create the plaza. The Midwood Development Corporation had agreed to maintain the pedestrian island, but the city’s plan immediately drew fire from residents who claimed it would attract vagrants and vandals and cause massive traffic backups.

Most of the opposition came from Midwood’s Orthodox Jewish community, who said the city neglected to consult the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance members and scheduled a hearing about the plaza two days before Passover, making it difficult for Orthodox residents to attend.

Citing community opposition, the Midwood Development Corporation ultimately dropped out of the project — leaving the city with an uphill battle to keep its plaza alive. The city’s plan can’t go forward until another private company pledges to care of the tables and chairs.

Residents said the city should beautify the drab pedestrian island, but they don’t want to see any tables and chairs.

“What they should do is just plant things and put a little fence around it and make a garden,” said Mike Pessah, an opponent of the original plan who lives nearby. “I wouldn’t want chairs over there.”

Community Board 14 postponed its vote on the plaza until September over the objections of some members who wanted to officially shoot the project down.

But some board members say they would welcome a chance to vote on a new proposal.

“This idea is something that we had talked about and suggested to the Department of Transportation months ago,” said board member Kalman Yeger. “Most of the opposition is about the traffic, it’s not about having something pretty in the neighborhood.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @from_where_isit.

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