Ridge merchants back Third Avenue pedestrian mall • Brooklyn Paper

Ridge merchants back Third Avenue pedestrian mall

Charles Otey and Bina Valenzano say closing an eight-block stretch of Third Avenue in Bay Ridge on four nights this summer will bring business to the strip.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Lawmakers are resurrecting a panned proposal to turn Third Avenue between 81st and 89th streets into an open summertime plaza for shoppers — and merchants who once vehemently opposed the plan now say it could be a commercial boost.

Organizers say their new and improved “Summer Stroll” would close the avenue to traffic on four Fridays in July and August, giving pedestrians free reign to window shop, sample food and drinks from local restaurants, and hear live music at three makeshift stages from 6-11 pm — a prospect they say would attract more shoppers.

“It will benefit the entire community and showcase Bay Ridge as a creative and culturally vibrant area,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who is backing the project along with state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and the Merchants of Third Avenue, a civic group for local businesses.

Community Board 10 will hold a public hearing on the proposal this evening.

The new stroll is a lot smaller in scale than the one avenue shopkeepers blasted last year: the Merchants of Third Avenue initially wanted to close the avenue to vehicular traffic between 82nd and 92nd streets on nine Fridays in July and August. But that plan didn’t sit well with store owners who feared the temporary malls would be noisy and chaotic, prevent deliveries, encroach on parking spaces along the side streets, and drive away regular customers.

“This plan will just cheapen the neighborhood,” Damien Christopher, the chef at Hom near 88th Street, told us last year.

But Hom and many others are singing a different tune now that organizers have reserved parking spaces for shoppers at the municipal lot on 85th Street and Fifth Avenue, and promised that the sale of alcohol would be limited to restaurants with liquor licenses.

“We have a better plan in place,” said Bina Valenzano, owner of BookMark Shoppe between 84th and 85th streets.

Christopher seemed to agree.

“Let’s try it and see how it goes,” the chef told us last week.

Community Board 10 is expected to vote on the plan at a meeting later this month. If the project is approved, Bay Ridge will join a growing list of Brooklyn neighborhoods that boast similar summertime pedestrian plazas, including Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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