PARK SLOPE – Brooklyn’s 5th Avenue between Dean Street and Park Place is now part of the city’s Open Streets program, designed to aid small businesses and provide more room for social distancing and allow for expanded street dining.
The program had a trial-run for the 4th of July, in partnership with the 5th Avenue BID. Restaurant owners who are part of the program gain an extra four feet during the on-hours, but are still required to leave a 15-foot space in the street in case an emergency vehicle needs to get through. For Gary Casimir, owner of BK9, the extra space isn’t the only benefit to the program.
“The vibe we got from last Saturday was that it brought more people out to the neighborhood, to North Fifth Avenue, just walking around trying to figure out what’s going on. It was creating some sort of excitement at the idea that we can get through this pandemic, that there’s some life on the other side,” Casimir said. He added that for now, BK9 probably won’t add any additional tables with the extra space, but will instead utilize it to spread their existing tables out a bit more.
Casimir says that he was one of the first owners to organize a petition to close the street section, something that allowed the area to be opened more quickly as they were already at the top of the list.
“Can we keep 5th Ave this way forever?” Matteo Trisolini commented on Instagram, in support of the Open Streets program.
Mark Caserta, the Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue BID, says that owners have been very helpful in implementing the program.
“This program is kind of a do-it-yourself. You have to close the street and open the street yourself with barricades, and [owners have] been very helpful in doing that. And the restaurants that are not part of this pilot program so far are all lining up for their sections to be closed and are offering to help open and close the street as well,” Caserta said. He added that as of now, 27 restaurants have applied to be a part of Open Streets.
“[We’re] just hoping that people will come out and support the small businesses including the stores that are nearby, [and] realize that they are desperately in need of support,” Caserta said.
Casimir agrees that the first step requires neighbors feeling safe. This past weekend came with Tropical Storm Faye, causing many owners to close their outdoor spaces. One of the problems with the program, Casimir says, is that it’s “weather permitting”.
“The first thing is to have people interested in coming out. There’s some interest, I think more people have quarantine fatigue, so there are people that want to come out, but it’s still not the numbers we used to get. We’re not talking about anything near what most of the small businesses were doing before. But, anything from zero is an improvement,” Casimir said.
The program is in place Fridays from 5:00pm-11:00pm and weekends from 12:00pm-11:00pm.
Restaurants open on the strip include BK9, Clever Blend Coffee, Pizza Town, Miriam, Mr. Wish, Pure Bistro, Nacho Macho Taco, Lizzie King’s Parlor, City Subs, Pizza Secret, Convivium Osteria, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, Besito, Miss American Pie, Insomnia Cookies, Sweet Water Coffee and Tea, Alchemy, The Montrose, and El Viejo Yayo.