LAST SUNDAY, THE MONTAGUE STREET BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID) co-sponsored the first of four block-closings that turned three blocks of Montague Street into ‘piazzas.’ While the 4th of July weekend was a slow time to try something new to promote this unusual street, that fact helped police, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Montague BID to work out bugs that will make subsequent weekend celebrations more successful.
We spoke to CHELSEA MAULDIN, executive director of the Montague BID, about this rare four-block historic strip that has a world-class tourist attraction at one end and a civic center at the other.
BDE: The first Montague Summer Space fell on the 4th of July weekend — how do you think that affected turnout?
CM: I thought we had a terrific turnout, more than we expected on a gray holiday weekend. Our goal is to create an appealing pedestrian piazza that encourages Sunday shoppers to visit our street. We’re hoping the street will be busy each Sunday, but not at the expense of a pleasant environment.
BDE: In addition to having more people, can you describe some of the added events that will begin next Sunday?
CM: New York has lots of great street parties, but Summer Space is the first of a new kind of public space: a “pop-up” destination for relaxing and browsing. For entertainment, we encourage visitors to enjoy our great local shops. Pick up a good read at Heights Books, discover a bargain at Housing Works, find a summer dress at Tango — then grab lunch from Lassen & Hennig and enjoy it outside. Some of our businesses may schedule special outdoor offerings over the coming weekends. Yoga People is planning al fresco yoga classes, for example. And we’d love to see chess players using the street! Check out the BID’s web site, www.montagueBID.com, for ongoing updates.
BDE: Every weekday, we see the wonderful positive response to the Doe Fund staff, who clean the street. Which business leaders have taken the most active role in helping improve Montague Street for the BID?
CM: We think our Doe Fund trainees do a wonderful job keeping our street clean, and they’re also providing extra staff for Summer Space — all thanks to the special assessment that each one of our property owners and/or businesses pay to support BID services. That’s the great thing about a business improvement district: A whole neighborhood comes together to share the responsibility of improving the community for all. Special thanks for Summer Space go to our local sponsors, 16 Court St. [the office building], owned by SL Green Realty Corp., Commerce Bank, and, of course, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle!
BDE: I believe this is unprecedented on a local level. Is there a model that the BID is following, or not?
CM: Yes, we’re the very first of the city’s new temporary pedestrian streets. While we’re not following a particular prototype, we’re very mindful of the successes other cities have had in opening their streets up to a variety of uses. The streets of New York are a public resource, maintained by all our tax dollars, so I think it’s very commendable that the city, particularly the DOT, is now exploring ways to broaden its functionality.
BDE: If the piazzas prove to be successful, will they be extended into the future? Will you be measuring popularity, collecting feedback from vendors?
CM: Summer Space is a pilot project, so we’ll be carefully assessing the success of the program — what is the general response, how many people come to the street compared to typical Sundays, and most important from the BID’s perspective, what’s the impact on our merchants’ sales compared to previous Julys? If results are good, then we’ll certainly consider future programs of this sort.
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LAUREN ELVERS COLLINS, co-founder of the Windsor Terrace Alliance, invites neighbors to the next Windsor Terrace Alliance general meeting, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. Topics on the table will include a graffiti clean-up program, an update of the McDonald Avenue traffic problems, free summer children’s programs and a call for additional advisory board members. The meeting will be held in Bishop Ford High School’s auditorium. Collins is also project director at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. www.windsorterracealliance.org
VICKI ELLNER, founder and chair of the Senior Umbrella Network of Brooklyn (SUN-B), has elected to honor state Sen. Marty Golden when the network celebrates its fifth birthday on July 15 at Kingsborough College.
“He is a champion for all seniors,” says Ellner about Golden. “In his role as chairman of the New York State Committee on Aging, he has advocated continuously for the rights of older Americans, helping to enact legislation …. The Power of One award recognizes individuals who go above and beyond in their efforts to make a difference, and that describes Martin Golden perfectly.”
SUN-B is an organization of professionals from different sectors focused on improving services for local senior citizens. To make luncheon reservations, call Sue Ferraro at (516) 455-8302.
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Brooklyn Children’s Museum President CAROL ENSEKI recently gave the keynote commencement address at St. Joseph’s College. Her main message: “Seek inspiring people.” Since 1997 Enseki has led the museum’s efforts to increase educational opportunities.