Local business owners are up in arms over talk of creating a plaza on Bedford Avenue.
Under the plan, which was presented by the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to several Community Board 1 members last week, Bedford Avenue would be closed to traffic between Manhattan Avenue and Lorimer Street to make way for a public seating area. Eastbound traffic, including the B62 bus which has a stop on that block, would be rerouted up Lorimer to Norman Avenue to get to Manhattan Avenue.
According to the DOT, the agency is exploring the plan as a possible traffic-calming measure based on a Community Board request. CB 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski, however, insists the board made no such request. When he questioned DOT about community support for the project, they responded with a 2006 letter from former CB 1 Transportation Committee Chair, Teresa Toro, written on behalf of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. In the letter Toro outlined several steps for making Nassau Avenue safer, many of which were incorporated into the Nassau Avenue Reconstruction project currently underway. There is no mention of the corridor DOT is considering for the plaza site. “I told them the board wouldn’t even consider the item unless they could show some community support for it,” Olechowski said.
Olechowski believes the plan is “dead on arrival.” He points to large numbers of people congregating on the street and businesses on the block no longer having the ability to receive deliveries as major factors for opposing the plaza. “There are already numerous noise complaints from residents,” he said. “This can only make matters worse. And how do you reroute traffic to Norman via Lorimer? Lorimer is so narrow it’s a threat to cars parked there. Buses won’t be able to make the sharp turn off Nassau onto Manhattan, so where do you reroute the B62?”
As of press time, DOT said it has no changes planned for Bedford. Billy Essling of Billy’s Locksmith is not convinced. He recalled that an agency rep approached him about the plan a year ago, to which he raised strong opposition. “Last year, I told him the local businesses and residents would fight this to the end,” he said. “If they’re not planning anything, why are they back?” He is now collecting signatures on a petition opposing the plaza. “Service trucks won’t be able to load and unload at the store. The riff-raff that is likely to hang out in front of the store will drive away customers and there will be garbage everywhere,” he said.
Essling’s neighbors agree. Rosemary Pinto, who owns Sharkey’s Driving School, said vehicle access to her school, especially for commercial vehicles has allowed her to operate at her Bedford Avenue location for 22 years. “This would put me out of business,” she said. Five Leaves’ Kathy Mecham pointed to the number of public inebriates in McCarren Park particularly on the Lorimer side. “To take what has become a blossoming small business area and create additional unregulated seating would only escalate the problem,” she said. “We believe there is enough public space already in this area without pushing more unregulated space towards the businesses. It seems it will only create a traffic jam with little community benefit.”