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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.
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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.
Updated 8:44 am, February 7, 2012
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Reasonable discourse

WW from Bay Ridge says:
Charles Otey, and Vincent Gentile have never run a business in their life.

Marty Golden would back a witch burning if he thought he'd get another vote.

All of those strollers eating in the streets will take public transportation there, because it is so reliable at the end of the line, instead of driving there and double parking on the side streets, right guys? They'll take the third ave bus, and carry the purchases the shoppers made to the fifth ave parking lot.

At 81st street they can see the shuttered Blockbuster, the vacant lot where the Mobil station was, and see the other out of business store fronts, and know that they will be joing them soon!

Will the last Merchant of Third Avenue please turn out the lights?
Feb. 7, 2012, 8:39 am
Joe Blow from Bay Ridge says:
Why are so many people so negative about trying something a little different? It's worth a try. There are thousands of people living within walking distance. Not everyone drives to Third Avenue, and anything that makes the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly is a very good thing. Finally, the former Blockbuster store and the old Mobil lot are already being redeveloped. Neither was the most productive use for the real estate they occupied.
Feb. 7, 2012, 10:28 am
Zack from Bay Ridge says:
I'm pretty sure the 3rd avenue festivals have been successful in the past. This "summer mall" idea is basically a smaller version happening a few times over two months.

What the hell is the problem?
Feb. 7, 2012, 12:22 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
Zack has it about right. If anything, the pedestrian mall should be extended into the fall, when a lot of the locals with disposable income are back from their summer homes.

Also, the area between 69-75 has been revitalized recently, and would add a lot to the ambiance of the mall. This idea really could work from Marine Ave to 69th Street eventually.
Feb. 7, 2012, 1:57 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Zack is right, buying tube socks in the street is a sign of success and truly the pursuit of happiness.
Feb. 7, 2012, 2:11 pm
Zack from Bay Ridge says:
Meh on the tube socks. Honestly, I think there should be a bit of discrepancy involved in selecting the street vendors.

Perhaps having a themed "summermall" event, like an artisan fair with high quality foods and unique crafts, a mini local farmers market section, etc. Perhaps some performances by the local dance and acting schools or a walk-through movie theater playing classic romance or B movies.

There's so many things you can do with the area!
Feb. 7, 2012, 7:33 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
It doesn't appear that the tube-sock selling vendors will appear en masse. I don't think vendors other than the existing ones will be able to have stalls. There was a meeting this evening that I was unable to attend where we could have gotten more information about this effort.

From reading the article, I am inclined to be open-minded about this. Like Damien from Hom says, "Let's try it and see how it goes."
Feb. 7, 2012, 8:32 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Did anyone attend tonight's meeting who might be able to answer the vendor question?
Feb. 7, 2012, 8:33 pm
Zack from Bay Ridge says:
Mike, I didn't know that there were community meetings. Where can I find out more about this? I definitely would like to take an active role in the community
Feb. 7, 2012, 9:23 pm
Such and Such from Bay Ridge says:
The Next official meeting will be held at the date stated in the article. This will be by far anything similar to the Festival. No outside vendors permitted. Zack you have the right idea of what it will be with many tremendouse efforts put in. "Perhaps having a themed "summermall" event, like an artisan fair with high quality foods and unique crafts, a mini local farmers market section, etc. Perhaps some performances by the local dance and acting schools or a walk-through movie theater playing classic romance or B movies." It's Summer Stroll on 3rd and the funding was always there from the city, it was just never implemented or used. For those who have gone to Summer Streets in the City it has been thus far a huge success. This isn't about rowdiness and getting drunk, it's about enriching the community through vibrant cultural events with vendors participating, who are responsible for creative settings and not just a table slapped up front. Some should try and have an open mind in trying new things, instead it sounds that some have given up.
WW are you a vendor along 3rd Ave or a brick and mortar business owner in general?
Feb. 8, 2012, 12:19 am
Cyclerock from Bklyn says:
This idea would occur in such a small time frame. Some ppl against this are acting like its going to be permanent. Don't be a crybaby and give it a try. Manhattan's Summer Streets is awesome. If this Summer Stroll is 1/2 as good, it will be great. If you are a business there, and business is down for you, then you should be up for something new. If business is presently good for you, then you should be flexible and eager to be a part of something new. >> The key would be to promote it, people know traffic is interrupted, and to have interesting presentations on the participating blocks.
Feb. 8, 2012, 10:36 am
Paco from Cobble Hill says:
Zack, I attended and heard lots of great info. Just check in with the CB10 calendar each month and you'll see when these types of meetings are on the radar. http://www.bkcb10.org/calendar/

And 'Such and Such' said it well... they were very clear, no outside vendors permitted. In fact, there are NO TRANSACTIONS allowed on the street. So, no hot dog vendors or tube socks, just existing businesses putting their presence out in more public view in tandem with local Bay Ridge based art and cultural groups. It sounds like it will not only be awesome, but that soon people will ask for it to go on more than just 4 friday nights a year.
Feb. 8, 2012, 4:03 pm
Brendan from Prospect Heights says:
It worked well in my neighborhood. Give it a try before you complain too much.
Feb. 8, 2012, 6:56 pm
Fran from bayridge says:
The reason so many people are so negative about it is because it is being forced upon us. No one gets to vote for it.

And no one is talking about the issues of security and clean up. It's nice that some businesses want to try something new. But why not try something new now instead of sitting back waiting for customers to come in?

What could you try? Offer a coupon to your customers in the local paper or groupon. The bookstore offered a special deal last weekend and their store had a good amount of traffic from what I could see. Give your customers 15% or 20% off. You won't be losing money because they will be back to shop there or eat there if it is good.

Valentine's Day is coming and very few businesses are even decorated for the holiday. Spend $10 and purchase some streamers and paper decorations for your windows. St. Patricks Day is soon to folllow. Do the same in green. You still have a large Irish neighborhood here. Sell Irish baked good at your shop - everyone loves to purchase a small amount of cookies or soda bread.

Look at the Park Slope Bid. They are actually having a raffle.
http://parkslopefifthavenuebid.com/events/raffle2012cal

Team up with the Bookstore and have a coffee and book evening OR better yet, a book and restaurant evening. I looked at the stores from 81st to 89th. They are mostly small restaurants, take out places and nail salons. You are the BID together, team up and make some special offers to the community.

I'm not saying it won't be nice, anything is worth a try. Personally, I think the BID can do a bit more to help themselves.
Feb. 11, 2012, 8:13 am

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