It may have rained, but the organizers behind Bay Ridge’s third Summer Stroll of 2013 say the event was anything but a wash-out.
The stretch of Third Avenue between 69th and 80th streets closed off to traffic and turned into a European-style pedestrian plaza for the first time ever — two weeks after the section between 80th and 90th streets underwent a similar transformation for the second year in a row. Stores, restaurants, bars, and neighborhood groups put tables and chairs out on the street and customers came to fill them — after a few evening showers.
“The initial crowd was scared away, but once it stopped raining, we had a great showing,” said Chuck Otey, executive secretary of the Merchants of Third Avenue business group and co-founder of the Stroll.
Otey noted that the temporary piazza had a distinctly different flavor last Friday than on previous nights, due to a lower concentration of stores and a different ethnic mix of restaurants on the blocks between 69th and 80th streets. But he said business was buzzing at nearly all the participating merchants — in sharp contrast to the usual desolation of a summer night.
“Normally, you can roll a bowling ball down the avenue on a hot August Friday,” Otey said.
Otey also said the event offered an outlet for the neighborhood’s bored youth.
“Kids have been heating up all week long looking for something to do. I saw parents literally being dragged by their kids,” he said.
Otey developed and pitched the Summer Stroll concept in 2011 with Bina Valenzano, owner of the Bookmark Shoppe between 84th and 85th streets, and neighborhood pols. But the open-air fair failed to take flight that year, as merchants and residents raised fears that the event would bring drunken chaos to the corridor. But the idea finally won approval from Community Board 10 in Feb. 2012, as supporters pitched it as a cultural counterblast to the depiction of Bay Ridge as a dim-witted, party-hearty haven in the short-lived “Jersey Shore” knock-off “Brooklyn 11223.”
Wet weather put a damper on two of the four Stroll nights last year, but Valenzano said businesses on the avenue saw a 15 to 50–percent boost in revenue nonetheless.
Otey said he hoped to see the plaza get another extension next year — and run another four nights. Otey argued an eight-evening Stroll would boost commerce even more, and attract visitors from other neighborhoods.
“It would be very good for business, and it would bring a lot of people in,” Otey said.