Residents hail Kensington’s new Parasian plaza

Vive la Paris!

The controversial Parisian plaza that organizers said would turn Church Avenue into the borough’s next Champs-Elysees is being hailed by Kensington residents who say the new plaza is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Critics panned the plaza before it was installed, fearing that the corner would become a haven for winos rather than wine-sipping literati, but now that it’s here, most residents are singing its praises, project organizers claim.

“That area is cleaner than it’s ever been and it’s beginning to have a ripple effect all around the area,” said Jole Carliner, who originally organized the plaza project — which was inspired by her time in Paris as a young woman — before passing it along to the city’s Department of Transportation. “It’s produced the good vibe we wanted it to produce and though it’s not perfect, it’s every bit of what we wanted it to be.”

Yet not everyone is willing to have a croissant at the corner.

“It’s a nuisance that is disturbing the neighborhood,” said Joan Ryan, a longtime neighborhood resident who lives a few paces away from the plaza with her mother on Beverley Road. “People sit in the plaza until 2 and 3 in the morning and they smoke and drink and stare.”

Ryan said she’s not the only one upset by these glaring goons.

“Nobody in the area really wants these benches because there’s a whole bunch of men — only men — who crowd around and block anybody from going into the stores and other businesses,” she said. “It’s not right.”

But many plaza neighbors are dismissing Ryan’s claims. Complainers like Ryan, they said, are unwilling to accept change in the community’s fabric — or population.

“I think a few very conservative neighbors are afraid that people of different colors are taking over Kensington,” said Annie Ferdous, a member of Community Board 12 who said she would like to see even more benches put in the neighborhood. “The plaza has been a success because the group that committed to take care of it has continued to do so with extra care. The benches are never empty and people are now saying they need more.”

Carliner agreed with Ferdous, claiming that community volunteers who took it upon themselves to clean the plaza was the key to its success.

“The people of the neighborhood have gotten involved in this and it has made the difference,” she said.

Councilman Brad Lander, who sponsored the project along with the Department of Transportation, said his office has received only one complaint about the plaza.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to inquiries for comment.

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

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