By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The super successful Summer Stroll on 3rd is coming back this year.
The Merchants of Third Avenue, a business organization representing store owners on the Bay Ridge end of the avenue, is joining up with state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) to sponsor the Third Annual Summer Stroll on 3rd event this July and August.
Under Summer Stroll, a section of Third Avenue is turned into a pedestrian mall – no cars allowed – for four Friday nights in July and August to give shoppers the chance to stretch their legs, enjoy live music, hunt for bargains at a leisurely pace and sip cappuccinos in outdoor cafes.
In the previous two Summer Stroll events, shoppers gave the group positive feedback. Pedestrians said they enjoyed the chance to stop at street corners and hear opera singers, folk musicians and a capella groups.
The Merchants held its first Summer Stroll planning meeting on April 22, where members heard from Ray Riley, an aide to Golden, and Gentile aide Justin Brannan, who coordinating the effort and are working with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to solidify the plans. The DOT is the agency responsible for the program.
Closing down a main avenue to vehicular traffic requires permits from the city. Summer Stroll is part of a citywide program called Weekend Walks that was introduced during the Bloomberg Administration to encourage New Yorkers to get out of their cars and walk. Under the program, the DOT allows sponsoring groups to close a section of an avenue or boulevard to vehicular traffic and bring in games, musical performers and other amenities.
The dates and exact locations for the Third Annual Summer Stroll on 3rd are July 18 and 25 from Bay Ridge Avenue to 80th Street, and on Aug. 8 and 15 from 80th Street to 90th Street. The Summer Stroll hours will be 6-10 p.m.
The event took place on four nights during its first two years of existence. The Merchants had been hoping to have the 2014 version of Summer Stroll run for six nights instead of four, but the DOT is reluctant to extend the event, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
Still, Third Avenue has a lot to look forward to, Riley told the Merchants. “We have the largest Summer Stroll in the city,” he said. Golden has reached out to City Hall to see if he can win approval for six nights.
The Merchants group is experimenting this year with a different method of operations in the planning of the event, according to Bob Howe, the organization’s president. Rather than have a general chairman run the show, as has been done in previous years, the Merchants group is handing the task over to a group of store owners who will serve as zone coordinators. “We are going to have a decentralization,” Howe said.
The zone coordinators will plan the activities on the blocks under their jurisdiction, with assistance from community leaders, like Liz Amato, the public relations committee chairman of Community Board 10, and Karen Tadross, executive producer of Ridge Chorale/Jeff Samaha Productions.
“I think it’s good to do it this way,” Howe told the Brooklyn Eagle after the meeting. ”It empowers the merchants and gets the community involved. They take ownership of it.”
Summer Stroll has been growing in popularity all over the city, according to Amato, who attended a recent meeting with DOT officials and sponsoring groups. DOT approved plans for 15 Summer Stroll events in 2013. This year, 38 have been given the go-ahead, Amato said.
In Bay Ridge, the zone coordinators are also in charge of soliciting support from individual store owners on the avenue. A deadline of May 9 has been set for merchants to let the organizers know if they want to participate in Summer Stroll. Permits are required if store owners want to set up tables and sell their merchandise outside. “You guys are really going to need to pound the pavement,” Riley told the coordinators.
“I anticipate that a lot of merchants will be coming out,” Howe said.
Christmas lights will be strung up along the avenue to give the Summer Stroll a festive feel – that is, if the Merchants can come up with the money to pay for them. Merchants member Courtney Sessa Flynn volunteered to coordinate the lighting program.
Since there is no overall chairman of Summer Stroll, zone coordinators will be responsible for spreading the word about the plans for the event, said Charles Otey, executive secretary of the Merchants and a Brooklyn Eagle columnist. Otey suggested that the coordinators post signs in their store windows inviting people to come in and ask about the plans. “We don’t want phone calls to come to a central number, because there won’t be one,” he said.
The city has imposed some limitations on Summer Stroll events. No propane tanks will be allowed on the street, meaning that there will be no outdoor barbecuing. And pedestrians will not be permitted to walk around holding beer or alcohol.