Al fresco dining at the Grand Concourse

Is that the Bronx, or Paris? Lunch break around the Bronx Civil Court on the Grand Concourse just got jazzed up, with the arrival of the city’s “bistro sets.”
Courtesy 161st Street BID

The folks who hold court in the Bronx halls of justice can now hold court outdoors in the park for lunch hour.

A stretch of Joyce Kilmer Park at E. 161st Street and the Grand Concourse will have tables and chairs set up on Tuesdays, near the farmer’s market.

The 161th Street Business Improvement District received Parks Department approval to set up five so-called city “bistro sets” near the Heinrich Heine Foundation, known to locals as the “Lorelai,” once a week starting Tues. July 1, offering the lunch crowd a place to relax and people-watch in the middle of the afternoon.

Take it easy!

The outdoor hangout’s organizer says the new café-style seating is good news for the thousands of government workers and jurors who flood the borough hub daily, but until now had nowhere to sit.

“People zoom from one place to another here, and there’s no place to plunk down and take it easy,” said Cary Goodman, the BID’s executive director. “We wanted to give people a reason to feel good about where they work.”

The BID did a test run of the new seating on Tues. June 24, and lunch-breaking locals swiftly swallowed up the spaces.
“Within about three minutes they were completely occupied,” gushed Goodman.

Labor of lunch-love

The business coalition chief has been on a crusade to improve lunch breaks on 161th Street since the BID re-launched with him at the helm in July 2009. In 2012, he drew up a “guide for the hungry juror” — aimed at those summoned to the area for jury duty — that included 128 eatery suggestions for visitors.

Besides the courthouses, the area includes Yankee Stadium and the massive Concourse Plaza mall, which is undergoing a face-lift this summer.

Community leaders said adding some designated spaces for outdoor dining was a boon.

“I think it’s great,” said Jose Rodriguez, district manager of Community Board 4. “It encourages people to get out and enjoy the park.”

If the café-style seating goes well, Goodman said the BID would push to keep the chairs and tables out for more days a week. He also floated the possibility of bringing in musicians to serenade diners during their afternoon respite from the office.

And hey, he added, maybe workers will decide to stay in the area for the long haul.

“If we can get people to slow down to take a breath,” said Goodman, “It will encourage people to think about moving to this neighborhood.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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