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‘Summer Strolls’ to return to Bay Ridge’s commercial thoroughfares this summer

Stroll on: Bay Ridge's beloved "Summer Strolls" will return this summer.
File photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Let the good times stroll!

Bay Ridge’s beloved “Summer Strolls” are returning for their ninth hurrah this summer after taking a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, officials announced Monday. 

“What is going to make our neighborhoods feel like they’re back is bringing back our traditions,” said state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who represents a swath of southern Brooklyn which includes Bay Ridge. “Summer streets is one of those traditions.” 

Neighborhood merchants, business advocates and politicians met May 17 to announce the relaunch of the summer program, during which streets are closed to vehicles and storefronts set up shop on the sidewalk.

“We are very, very excited to announce the return of our Summer Strolls,” said Louis Coluccio, Jr. of ALC Italian Grocery on Third Avenue. “We are looking forward for all the businesses to come out, for the community to come out and support it.” 

The 2021 Summer Strolls will be held on Third Avenue’s southern end on July 9 and Aug. 6, and its northern end on July 16 and Aug. 13, as well as Fifth Avenue on the last Friday of each month from July to October. 

Business owners are still working with the city’s Department of Transportation to finalize which streets will be blocked off on Third Avenue, but the executive director of Fifth Avenue’s business boosting group told Brooklyn Paper they plan to close nine blocks between 72nd and 85th streets.

“[The city] wants there to be more space, as opposed to lots of things like a festival, where you think of a very crowded event,” said Amanda Zenteno, who heads the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District. “This is so people can come out and enjoy that space, like bike riding or if they wanted to picnic.”

A band plays live music in front of Greenhouse Cafe at a past Third Avenue Summer Stroll.File photo by Trey Pentecost

The reinvented, socially-distant summer strolls will utilize the city’s Open Streets program introduced during the pandemic, which varies from her thoroughfare’s previous “weekend walks” program, Zenteno said, as it requires social distancing and discourages crowds.

The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID will use space on their extended open street to host programming crowdsourced by the community, and Zenteno hopes neighbors will reach out to their office with ideas. Those proposals can run the gamut, she said, adding that suggestions so far have included a knitting class and a slam poetry event.

“In those nine blocks we are going to have two specific locations for programming, and that programing we will be putting out for the public is really going to be an open space for people in Bay Ridge who want to come out and do something.”

The Summer Strolls benefit both guests and business-owners alike.

While locals are offered an array of activities to choose from, storefronts along each strip are invited to sell outside — and, after a difficult year for many mom-and-pop shops, local merchants say they’re looking forward to getting back to business, and having a good time.

“I think it’s great for the community to just get out there and work together and have some fun,” said Jeanine Condon of Charmed by JLM on Third Avenue. “It’s fun to see regulars who come just for the strolls.” 

Charmed always offers an interactive activity for the event’s pint-sized strollers, and Condon said this year, she will give kids make-your-own jewelry kits, and host a community raffle for participants of all ages. 

“We always offer something for the children,” she said.

Kids enjoy ice cream at a Summer Stroll.File photo by Trey Pentecost

The event is highly anticipated by the neighborhood’s inhabitants and beyond, and the area’s councilmember said it’s just what the community needs after the past year wading through the coronavirus pandemic. 

“After an impossibly tough and terribly painful year, the summer is here and Bay Ridge is back! Everyone sacrificed so much, and now it’s time to come together again,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan. “Bay Ridge has always been a small town in a big city and now we can finally get back into the streets with friends and neighbors to have some fun and support our local small businesses!” 

Upon hearing the news, the neighborhood’s namesake podcast Radio Free Bay Ridge said the stroll will be the setting of future installments of their continuing oral histories project, which documents the neighborhood through the recorded short stories of its residents. 

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