Thousands defied Friday’s heat and came out for the first of four “Summer Strolls” — a street fair that kicked the cars off Third Avenue and transformed a stretch of the thoroughfare between 80th and 90th streets into a European-style pedestrian plaza.
“I saw so many children, so many parents, so many single people coming out and participating,” said stroll co-creator Bina Valenzano, owner of the Bookmark Shoppe between 84th and 85th streets.
Restaurants put chairs and tables out on the street to allow customers to enjoy alfresco dining, while stores held contests outside their doors. One group of kids created a lemonade stand to raise funds for the Bay Ridge Food Pantry, while other young’uns participated in an avenue-spanning scavenger hunt.
“It was neighbors and parents and kids coming out into the street and spending time outside, which we don’t do much any more,” she said. “This is a way for us to come together, increase awareness of Third Avenue stores, on what would be the quietest nights in the summer.”
Summer Stroll got off on the wrong foot when first proposed in 2011. Merchants and residents raised fears that the fair would bring drunken chaos. But the idea won approval from Community Board 10 in Feb. 2012, as supporters pitched it as a cultural counterblast to the depiction of Bay Ridge as a dim-witted, party haven in the short-lived “Jersey Shore” knock off “Brooklyn 11223”.
But Valenzano said that businesses saw a 15 to 50 percent boost during the stroll last summer — making it easier to convince shopowners to do it again this year.
“In the past, it was like we were selling a vision,” said Valenzano. “It was easier to organize this year, because I think people already understood what the goal was.”
On July 26, the stroll repeats at 80th and 90th streets. On August 9 and 16, the party moves to the stretch between 69th and 80th.
Summer Stroll [Third Avenue between 80th and 90th streets, in Bay Ridge] July 26, 6 pm. [Third Avenue between 69th and 80th streets, in Bay Ridge] Aug. 9 and 16, 6 pm. Free.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma