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Kips Bay Pedestrian Plaza Plan Halted as Shopping Center Owner Opposes It

KIPS BAY — A proposal to build a pedestrian plaza in Kips Bay has hit a dead end.

The Department of Transportation said it is no longer pursuing the project proposed for Second Avenue between East 30th and 32nd streets after the owner of the adjacent shopping center housing a Staples and Fairway sent a letter to the DOT withdrawing its support.

“It is our position that the public plaza will cause an unwarranted strain on the businesses in our development,” Evan Stein, a representative of J.D. Carlisle Real Estate, owner of Kips Bay Plaza, wrote in a letter to the DOT.

“Furthermore, we lack any confidence in the sponsoring entity’s [Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance] ability to effectively raise the required funds or the ability to professionally manage a large public plaza.”

In May 2012, the DOT closed Second Avenue to vehicular traffic for three months to test the pedestrian plaza plan, and the DOT and Community Board 6 have hosted several public workshops to gather community feedback on the project.

During a workshop on March 12, the DOT presented its updated designs for the project, including modifications such as shortening the plaza from three blocks to two blocks.

Only a week after that workshop, the DOT sent an email to Community Board 6 stating that it would not be moving forward with the project while Carlisle and its tenants opposed it.

“We do not believe that this plaza project can be successful without their support and cooperation and therefore DOT will not be advancing the project,” the email said, according to Sandro Sherrod, chairman of Community Board 6.

Initially, the plan was for the DOT to work with the Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance, a community organization made up of residents, to raise funds to maintain the plaza.

In response to the Carlisle letter, which claimed that the property owner did not have faith that the group could raise the funds to maintain the plaza, alliance president Molly Hollister said the neighborhood organization wasn’t giving up.

“All is not lost, and we’re hoping this is just a temporary setback,” Hollister said. “Our mission is to work to build a great community, so although this project would greatly enhance our neighborhood and give us much-needed open space, we can continue to work on other issues that affect our neighborhood."

The alliance said it plans to hold events at the site this summer to build support for public space in the area.

“KBNA will continue to strive for more open space in the area [and] continue to beautify the neighborhood,” Hollister said.

CB6 has largely been supportive of the project.

“Our board has stated a position of trying to increase the amount of public space in the area,” Sherrod said. “We have one of the smallest amounts of public spaces compared to other boards.

“On a daily basis, I get concerns from residents about wanting additional spaces for kids to play and for people to sit outside.”

J.D. Carlisle Real Estate did not respond to requests for comment.