A temporary pedestrian plaza could be in place in Ridgewood by the end of the month.
The plaza would be created by closing the southwestern end of 71st Avenue where it meets Myrtle Avenue and Stephen Street. A small pedestrian triangle already exists there for those crossing Myrtle.
The plaza would be demarked by large granite blocks, temporary reflective pylons and planters. The pylons would allow emergency access for the largest FDNY apparatus, access that would be maintained even if the plaza becomes permanent.
About two dozen residents and business owners met with officials from the city Department of Transportation at Joe and John’s Pizzeria on Myrtle Avenue Tuesday evening to discuss just what they would like to see comprising the finished product.
Emily Weidenhof, of the DOT, said that they could have temporary boundaries, markings and amenities like benches and bike racks in place in two weeks or less once they start.
She said the site has several things that make it attractive for a plaza.
“Bus lines are there, and you have a lot of people,” she said. “Myrtle Avenue is an active, busy retail corridor. We really feel there is a need for a place where people can come and sit down.”
The DOT would supply benches, movable tables and chairs, possibly umbrellas and various plantings.
Weidenhof said it also would examine things like lighting, security cameras and other things based on the specific attributes of the area.
It would be maintained by the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District.
Ted Renz, executive director of both organizations, said the site was under consideration for the same kind of project back in the 1980s when the city developed a similar space at Putnam and Cypress avenues, and the Det. Anthony Venditti Memorial Plaza at Myrtle and St. Nicholas avenues.
“The city ran out of money,” Renz said.
Joe and John’s sits across the street from the proposed site, and John Mistretta, who founded the business 44 years ago, hopes a vibrant, successful site can revitalize the neighborhood.
“I would like to see Myrtle Avenue come back to like it was 40 years ago,” he said.
A.J. Santana has been in the fitness business for 13 years and opened Sports Nutrition Center at the end of 71st Avenue in December. His business would be smack in the middle of the closed section of road.
He does have some concern about maintaining visibility from Myrtle and the possibility that the homeless might congregate there and drive people away. But he also is willing to give the idea a chance given the possible benefits.
“It’s temporary,” he said. “Let’s see how it works.”
Residents and business owners said they would like a loading zone right on Myrtle to accommodate the handful of businesses like Santana’s that would have parking eliminated in front. Weidenhof said the three parking spots that would be removed would be replaced directly on Myrtle.
She also said commercial garbage carters and the city Department of Sanitation have had no trouble accommodating their customers in areas with similar closures.
Several people suggested that the space could be used to host everything from arts exhibitions to special sales displays from local businesses.