By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sure, it’s cold out now, but in Bay Ridge, business leaders are thinking of summer.
The Merchants of Third Avenue, a group representing more than 250 store owners on the avenue between 69th and 94th streets, is making plans for its Third Annual Summer Stroll on 3rd event, in which a large section of the avenue is closed to vehicular traffic on Friday nights to allow pedestrians to stroll, shop, enjoy live music and sip cappuccinos at sidewalk cafes.
The Merchants got a big vote of confidence from Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights), which voted unanimously at its meeting Monday night to recommend that the city approve the group’s application to sponsor another Summer Stroll on 3rd.
The Merchants are becoming old pros at organizing the Summer Stroll happenings. The avenue was the setting for Summer Stroll events in 2012 and 2013. During each of those summers, the avenue was closed to cars on four Friday nights – two in July and two in August – and thousands of pedestrians turned out to have fun.
Bay Ridge’s Summer Stroll series is part of the New York City Department of Transportation’s Weekend Walks program designed to “enhance the public realm in commercial districts citywide,” the agency’s website states.
Last year, there were 23 Weekend Walks sites in all five boroughs during the summer and fall.
Robert Howe, president of the Merchants, said he was pleased not only with the vote of approval from the community board, but with the fact that the vote was unanimous.
"We are very pleased with the excellent vote of confidence given us by CB 10. We saw many of the board members and District Manager Josephine Beckmann having a great time at last summer's strolls,” he said.
“It took a big volunteer effort and we appreciate the consistent cooperation of Ray Riley from Senator Marty Golden's office and Justin Brannan on behalf of Councilman Vincent Gentile. It's significant that this very successful initiative on Third Avenue symbolizes the ability of our local representatives, on both sides of the political aisle, to get together for the benefit of the entire greater Bay Ridge community," Howe said, referring to the fact that Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) are on opposite sides of the political fence.
Both lawmakers helped with the planning and execution of the two previous summer stroll events.
Charles Otey, secretary of the Merchants, said the plan this year is to expand Summer Stroll so that it takes place over six nights. Three of the events will be centered on the section of the avenue from 69th Street to 81st Street and three will be focused on the portion of the avenue from 81st Street to 92nd Street.
"Credit our community board, led by Chairman Brian Kiernan, to know a good thing when they see one! CB 10 members, District Josephine Beckmann, Community Coordinator Dorothy Garuccio have provided us with support and direction the past two years,” Otey said.
The idea is to get people to come and enjoy the ambiance of Third Avenue with its nice cafes and trendy, Hamptons-like shops, according to organizers. There will be entertainment on nearly every block, including performances by opera companies and folk-rock bands. Visitors will be able to can enjoy art exhibits, poetry readings, and games for kids.
The ultimate goal is to convince Brooklyn residents that Third Avenue is a great place to shop and dine, according to Otey, who said the Merchants want to help bring business to the avenue.