If you regularly visit Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue you know that the area is an eclectic mix of shops, people, and synergy. But the sidewalks are often jammed with people. Bikes are clamped to anything that won't move. Consequently, it can be uncomfortable to navigate its density.
This past Saturday (and three more upcoming thru August 9th) Bedford has undergone a livable streets alchemy. From noon to 7 pm, Bedford has been opened up to pedestrians, bikes, and people power between Metropolitan to North 9th Street. On July 19th it was quiet, safe, relaxing, and human. Word of mouth promises to make future weeks even better. I am surely going back again; without a camera so I can chillax in the street too.
One important distinction to make here: this is not a street fair in any sense of the word. It is simply a street that has been de-motorized and opened to allow residents to re-discover, re-imagine their street. They decide what they want to do. Credit goes to many groups, individuals, and businesses, but look to Williamsburg Walks which has done a great job working with everyone to make this possible.
Teresa Toro: [00:15] A bunch of us here in the neighbourhood heard that the DOT was looking to do more public plazas and pedestrian spaces around the city, and there’s been a lot of talk in Williamsburg about how there isn’t enough room for biking or walking, so it just seemed like perfect timing to get together, get businesses, get residents together and do a project, and it turned into Williamsburg Walks.
Jason Jeffries: [00:36] I think each weekend as word gets out more and more people will come out and enjoy the open space and it’ll benefit the merchants up and down the street at the same time that it opens up more public space to people. It’s a different type of street closure. Usually street closures are for programmed events that’s a fair or a festival with lots of music and vendors setting up tents. And this was really just closing the street and letting the community define what to do with the space.
Speaker: [01:03] It just seems to be more communal. It seems to foster a feeling of, you know, wanting to get out and, you know, maybe say hi to people.
Speaker: [01:11] We love the water and we love to see kids playing in the water and we love to just hang out around here. You don’t need to go anywhere, you just sit and watching the people.
Speaker: [01:22] It feels a lot more peaceful right now, but that’s because I think the number of people are spread across sidewalk and road versus everyone crammed onto the sidewalk.
Speaker: [01:30] It adds like a really nice chilled environment and it’s, you know, it definitely has brought more people onto the streets today. And I’ve noticed there’s a lot more kids and families and stuff kind of walking around, so I think this is the way it should be.
Matthew Montesano: [01:42] We’ve got people pushing strollers with children. I’ve seen kids on bikes and on scooters. We have people playing soccer. A couple of blocks behind me when I was walking down here a guy was just lying in the street in the shade reading a book.
Mike Freedman Schnapp: [01:56] I think it’s important though that this event is going to develop organically and slowly and so… both business and residents who live in the area, that it’s something they all can enjoy.
Erica Goepel: [02:06] Definitely good for business. It brings people here, it brings… you know what I mean, now we’ve got more customers, new customers, people try us out.
Mike Freedman Schnapp: [02:13] A very low percentage of their people who patronise the shops actually come here in a car, so if you’re opening up their place to more pedestrians, it becomes a draw.
Speaker: [02:22] I walk past these places all the time and I never really get to see what exactly they are. Now I can actually stop and say, oh, I never noticed this restaurant before.
Speaker: [02:36] Got a little bar here. Ta da.
Speaker: [02:42] The [unintelligible 02:43] is good.
Speaker: [02:46] You got tons of good food.
Speaker: [02:47] Tables are out, people hanging out in the street, fantastic.
Teresa Toro: [02:51] When they find out that it’s not a fair and it’s really just whatever they want to make it, they get really excited and they ask questions of can I bring a chess set? Can I bring a picnic? And the answer’s yes, it’s your street, it’s your space, it’s your happening.
[03:06] So far it’s a success and I… we hope that the outcome is
that the community wants to see it happen again, whether it happens
again next summer or whether it be extended, or maybe we could do it
over the holidays in the winter. The end goal for a number of
us who are interested in this is that it could be done permanently on
Saturdays and then maybe be a permanently closed pedestrian street one
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