By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — A proposal by the Merchants of Third Avenue to create a Venice-style piazza on the avenue this summer cleared its first hurdle when a Community Board 10 committee unanimously approved the idea on Tuesday.
The Traffic and Transportation Committee will recommend that the full board approve the proposal when it meets on Feb. 27.
Committee Chairman Brian Kieran said his members were impressed by the fact that the proposal was a collaborative effort by the Merchants and elected officials such as state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilman Vincent Gentile.
Under the plan, which the Merchants are calling “Summer Stroll on 3rd,” Third Avenue from 81st Street to 89th Street will be closed to vehicular traffic and opened up as a pedestrian plaza from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on four nights this summer — July 20 and 27, and Aug. 10 and 17.
The approval came with one caveat. Members asked that the Merchants make sure visitors to Third Avenue on “Summer Stroll” nights have access to restaurant restrooms. Chuck Otey, executive secretary of the Merchants, said, “That won’t be a problem.”
On every block, there will be some type of arts presentation, including acoustic music, a capella singing groups, art exhibitions, poetry readings, book signings by authors, and performances by theater groups, according to Bina Valenzano, the chair of the organizing committee.
“We want to raise awareness among New York City that Third Avenue is a cultural locale,” said Valenzano, a co-owner of The BookMark Shoppe at 8415 Third Ave.
The committee vote took place following a public hearing in the community room at Shore Hill, the senior citizen residences at 9000 Shore Road. The hearing gave the Merchants an opportunity to offer details of the event.
Each block in the “Summer Stroll” zone will have a block captain who will be responsible for that particular street. The only artists and performers allowed into the event will be those invited by the organizing committee, Valenzano said.
“We are going to keep a very strong hold on it,” she said.
Once the plan is approved by the mayor’s office, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and the 68th Precinct will be contacted. A request will be put in for police coverage of the event. Valenzano, Otey, and Merchants President Bob Howe all said they hope to have a cop on every corner. If, for some reason, the 68th Precinct cannot provide the coverage, “then we will not go through with the event,” Valenzano said.
Ray Riley, an aide to Golden, said he is confident that the event will have good police coverage, since there are many street fairs and parades in Bay Ridge that are smoothly run.
“They (police) always find a way to cover it,” he said.
No one will be able to park on Third Avenue between 81st and 89th streets on the nights when the event is taking place. Riley said that will result in the temporary loss of 106 parking spots on the avenue.
But Valenzano said the Merchants will work with DOT officials and police to come up with alternative parking spots elsewhere in Bay Ridge. The municipal garage on Fifth Avenue and 86th Street is a possibility, according to Gentile. He added that he will also see if the Century 21 Department Store garage on 88th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues could be used.