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Bedford Avenue Becomes Street Party

A performer played at last year's street festival.
A performer played at last year's street festival.
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Williamsburg Walks

WILLIAMSBURG — A human Scrabble board, Twister, and pop-up music acts will fill Bedford Avenue instead of cars this Saturday.

The summer festival Williamsburg Walks will block off traffic from Metropolitan Avenue to North 12th Street, allowing restaurants to offer sidewalk seating and so shops can display their goods outside.

A kids' bike zone, sidewalk chalk, and a recycled book swap will join dozens of activities on the strip from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"It's always really fun, a lot of work but worth it," said Ryan Kuonen, whose organization Neighbors Allied for Good Growth planned the sixth annual fair along with the Department of Transportation.

The fair, which will run June 9, 16, and 23, will close off Bedford to cars from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day, and this year Grand Street will also join the action with its own Weekend Walks on July 14 and July 21.

The festival, which Kuonen said has been a hit with the neighborhood, has received a mixed response from shop owners, some who said they had felt the fair actually hurt their businesses.

"We've lost business in the past," said Aya Kiriyama, owner of Red Lantern at North Sixth Street, who claimed her business had decreased by about 30 percent during past walks. 

But Kuonen said her group would chart statistics this year from shops to check on the fair's results, which she anticipated would be positive.

"Pretty much around the world when you close off the street, business goes up," she said.

The only real victims of the festival, Kuonen said, were the sidewalk vendors, who must relocate from Bedford Avenue each Saturday of the event.

"The street vendors hate the event because they have to move to the side streets," said Kuonen. "But the city refuses  — they don't want it to become a crazy street fair. I think they're just scared of the sock vendors."

But the Department of Transportation, which organizes Weekend Walks around the city, maintained that it would not change its policy.

"As is the case with all Weekend Walks events, Williamsburg Walks is designed to open up neighborhood streets to pedestrians and encourage healthy, safe recreation and promote local business and cultural institutions," said a spokesman for the agency. "The event permits do not allow vending."