Kips Bay to Test Pedestrian Plaza for Three Months

By Mary Johnson on April 5, 2012 8:57am 

KIPS BAY — The Department of Transportation has agreed to turn a three-block service road in Kips Bay into a pedestrian plaza for three months this summer, beginning in May.

Community members said they were expecting a variety of organizations to fill the space with food, music and entertainment, providing a gathering spot for a neighborhood that has a shortage of open space.

The move marks the next step toward turning the service road that stretches along Second Avenue between East 30th and 33rd streets into a permanent public plaza — a prospect that has gathered ample support from area residents and community advocates.  

Last year, the DOT agreed to give the proposal a test run, closing down the strip that is only used for parking during three daylong street fairs.

"It’s much more of a neighborhood festival," Mark Thompson, chairman of Community Board 6, said last summer. "It’s a very relaxed, fun atmosphere."

But this summer’s three-month closure will provide a more serious test of how the space will fare as a public plaza.

Banishing cars from the stretch of road means that about 50 metered parking spots will be eliminated, but a DOT spokesman said other on-street parking in the neighborhood and a parking garage under Kips Bay Towers will make up for the lost spaces.

The spokesman said the DOT received a positive response after last year’s three-day test, and members of Community Board 6 have strongly supported the concept.

At a recent meeting, the community board passed a resolution in favor of the three-month plaza project this summer.   

"This is like a baby step," said Molly Hollister, a vice chairwoman of the Community Board 6 public safety, transportation and environment committee. "I hope we can show [the DOT] that it is needed and [that] people come out."

Hollister said many of the groups that participated in last summer’s series of street fairs — which became known as Kips Bay Community Days — will return to the plaza this summer.

Among those planning to set up demonstrations and booths in the month of May are the Stein Senior Center, New York Sports Club, Walter’s Dog Training, Petco and NYU Langone Medical Center.

Repertorio Espanol, a Spanish-language theater company, will put on puppet shows, Hollister said. Representatives from the New York City Public Library will read stories to children. Solar One, the city’s first green-energy, arts-and-education center, will sponsor exhibits, and farmers markets will sell local fruits and vegetables, Hollister added.

A specific schedule has not yet been solidified, but organizers are actively working to attract even more groups to the new space, she said.

"You just can’t expect to throw out a few things and people will come" Hollister said. "You really need to have events and things happening."

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