By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A proposal from the Merchants of Third Avenue business group to hold another “Summer Stroll on 3rd” event in Bay Ridge this July and August cleared its first major hurdle when a key committee of Community Board 10 voted unanimously in favor of the plans Tuesday night.
A negative vote by Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee could have stopped the project in its tracks.
But following a public hearing at PS 102, 211 72nd Street, the committee voted to recommend to the full community board that the project be given the go-ahead. The full board will vote on the plan when it meets on Feb. 25. The measure is expected to pass. The board will send its recommendation to the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), which has the final say. The event would be part of DOT’s ‘Summer Streets” program. Under the program, major thoroughfares around the city are closed to vehicular traffic to allow pedestrians to enjoy outdor activities.
The Merchants sponsored “Summer Stroll on 3rd” on four Friday nights last summer. Cars were banned from an eight-block stretch of Third Avenue from 81st Street to 89th Street, leaving the avenue open for pedestrians to stroll, shop, eat ice cream, and listen to strolling musicians.
This year, the Merchants are aiming for a larger area of participation. The application the business group filed with the DOT calls for a Summer Stroll event to run from 68th Street to 90th Street on four nights – July 19 and 26 and Aug. 9 and 16. The Merchants group, led by lawyer Bob Howe, represents more than 300 store owners on Third Avenue between 68th and 95th Streets.
The “Summer Stroll” event is co-sponsored by the Merchants, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst).
Bina Valenzano, a Merchants member and chairman of the “Summer Stroll on 3rd” organizing committee, said the success of the 2012 event attracted interest on the part of store owners on the northern end of the avenue.
“Because of the success at the southern end of the avenue, merchants on the northern end of the avenue came to us and said they wanted us to bring it to their end,” said Valenzano, co-owner of the http://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/ BookMark Shoppe, a bookstore at 8415 Third Ave.
Store owners in the “Summer Stroll” coverage area reported a 45 percent increase in business on the nights when the event was held last year, Valenzano said.
The Merchants toyed with the idea of holding two separate “Summer Stroll” events; one for the northern end of the avenue and another for the southern end, “but DOT told us they would not be in favor of that,” Valenzano said. Instead, “the avenue came together as a united front,” and one application was filed, she said.
“It won’t be hard to expand it,” said Merchants Secretary Charles Otey. “There is such a desire for it north of 80th Street. Merchants north of 80th Street really wanted to take part in it,” Otey, a lawyer, said.
Arlene Rutuelo, owner of Nordic Delicacies, a Norwegian-American food store at 6909 Third Ave., said she’s happy the “Summer Stroll” event is being extended to her section of the avenue.
“I’m hoping it will get residents and merchants into another realm of communication,” Rutuelo said. “That was one of the great things about last year. I went to two out of the four nights and I saw a lot of residents chatting with merchants in an unhurried way. They were getting to know each other,” she said.
Praising the “home grown feel” of the event, Rutuelo said “Summer Stroll on 3rd” has the potential to boost community pride. “Bay Ridge is not just the waterfront. It’s also our shops and restaurants. I think we merchants need to start enjoying Bay Ridge, too,” she said.
The vote by the Traffic and Transportation Committee means “we’re 99 percent there,” Rutuelo said. She expressed confidence that the full membership of Board 10 will vote to approve the plan.
This year’s version of “Summer Stroll on 3rd” will feature a similar plan as the 2012 event, only bigger, Valenzano said. “What worked for us last year were the types of performers we had. We were extremely happy with the opera singers, the barbershop quartets, and the dancers. We plan to have more artists this year,” she said.
The goal of the event is to unite the community, according to Otey. “When communities gather, they gather in the marketplace,” he said.