Pedestrian plaza coming to 70th Street
by Heather Senison
Jan 26, 2012 | 3273 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Department of Transportation representative Emily Weidenhof discusses ideas with local residents.
Department of Transportation representative Emily Weidenhof discusses ideas with local residents.
Plans are in the works to turn 70th Street between Cooper and Myrtle avenues into a pedestrian plaza, and while some community members invite the change, others worry it will bring more harm than good.

While representatives from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Design and Construction suggested using the plaza for relaxation, street fairs and other community-oriented purposes, some attendees worry it could attract car accidents, vagrants, the homeless and teenage troublemakers.

The city held a joint meeting with the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation (RLDC) on Wednesday at the Redeemer Lutheran School at 69-70 Cooper Avenue where they recommended adding about 3,100 square feet to the existing triangle to make a total of a roughly 5,500-square-foot plaza. It would be about 104 feet long by 62 feet wide.

The city suggested adding three feet of cement space on either side of the plaza that would jut into Cooper and Myrtle, but residents said the avenues are already too narrow.

However, its plan is only a recommendation, and the meeting was held for community input so its design team can create a proposal based on residents' ideas.

“Nothing is set in stone yet,” said DOT representative Emily Weidenhof.

In 2009, the RLDC submitted a request to the city's plaza program, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative.

The meeting was “an opportunity for you to be involved in creating a dynamic public space in your community,” RLDC Executive Director Ted Renz said to its attendees. “This was an opportunity to do something, a really bona fide project for the Glendale community.”

Buildings surrounding the plaza would be the existing McDonald's franchise across the street, the owners of which signed in to the meeting but weren't present when called on for comment, and the German restaurant Zum Stammtisch, located directly on 70th Avenue.

Although they don't necessarily support the construction of a plaza, the owners of Zum Stammtisch said at the meeting they'd apply for a permit to have an outdoor cafe.

Co-owner Werner Lehner said the cafe would enhance his business and allow the restaurant to keep an eye on the plaza, preventing it from “inviting possibly the wrong element.”

Lehner said the restaurant would be willing to shell out six figures for the outdoor space, to provide an attractive space with lighting, umbrellas, and removable chairs and tables to be brought in at night.

Regardless if the restaurant is granted a permit, he will install security cameras on the side of the restaurant facing the plaza, Lehner said.

“It's in our backyard and in the end, we're going to be stuck holding the bag,” he said. “If there's no involvement from us whatsoever, it's going to become a problem area.

After city representatives gave their presentation, attendees split up into groups, each with a large rendering of the plaza to write and draw ideas on. The groups later presented their ideas in front of the room.

Major concerns included safety and encouraging regular traffic flow.

In addition, athough the RLDC will sign a contract as a maintenance partner with the DOT, some residents were still worried about garbage and snow clean up at the plaza.

“If you take a snow and ice storm, our only egress across that street will be across the plaza,” said Linda Bohn, who lives on the 70th Street dead end. “If that is not maintained and kept clean, there's a major problem.”

“And if you look at other plazas in the area, what happens to them when it's dark?” she added. “I think you really have to look at the neighborhood.”

Weidenhof said the city cleared the plaza with the local firehouse, making sure it would not obstruct its route, but some residents were skeptical.

Representatives from the veterans' community said they don't want the World War I monument in the triangle obscured and would like the flag pole moved closer to it to make it even more of a focal point. They also suggested carving the names of soldiers from Glendale who perished in the war.

Some groups suggested seating walls around the monument, while others recommended multi-level seating. Many requested barriers to protect people sitting in the plaza from cars on the street.

Many expressed concerns about the plaza attracting homeless people, but others said if there's no seating, it's not going to attract visitors.

In response, Weidenhof suggested using seats with arm rests to prevent people from laying down.

After the city designs a new proposal, another meeting will be held for residential input. A final proposal will be presented to Community Board 5 for review.

Representatives said the design process will take another six months and they hope to have a finalized plan in place by the beginning of 2013.

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