It’s been five years since the first Williamsburg Walks closed down Bedford Avenue to car traffic in favor of outdoor seating and special programming. While some businesses still question the effect on their bottom lines, no doubts exist about the growth of activities and participants at the annual event, which organizer Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) launched this past Saturday, June 9th.
For the Williamsburg Walks series, Bedford Avenue is converted into a temporary pedestrian street, to encourage people to rethink their open space, engage their neighbors and gain a different perspective on their neighborhood. Offered in partnership with The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), it is part of the City’s “Weekend Walks,” which takes place at 20 sites throughout NY to highlight local businesses and cultural institutions.
NAG Co-Chair Ward Dennis was enthusiastic about the success of the first of this year’s Williamsburg Walks. “[It] shows the value of creating public space – it is a great way to bring neighbors, visitors and businesses together,” he said. “We’ve expanded Walks with an additional weekend and three additional blocks, so we have more opportunities for both programmed and unprogrammed space, and it is always exciting to see how people use this newly found public space.”
Assemblyman Joe Lentol agreed, delighting in creative changes to the hub of North Brooklyn art and commerce. “Williamsburg Walks is one of my favorite events of the summer,” he said. “This is a chance to see Bedford Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Williamsburg in terms of vehicle traffic, in a new light. I especially liked the patches of artificial grass that I saw for the first time this year. That was an inspired idea.” Local officials, including Councilmembers Steve Levin and Diana Reyna, District Leader Lincoln Restler and CB 1 Chairman Chris Olechowski also attended week one of Walks.
Grace Gicala, who owns Trojanowski Liquors and Wines at 181 Bedford Avenue, is among the business owners who have been disappointed with revenues on Williamsburg Walks days. “For the first time in the five years they’ve been organizing the Walks, I saw business pick up a little,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
There will be two more Williamsburg Walks Saturdays, on June 16th and 23rd from Noon – 9:30PM. Programming will run from 3:00PM – 8:00PM.
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