A plan to construct Westchester Square Plaza was officially approved by Community Board 10.
After a public hearing on the plaza on Wednesday, June 27, the board voted in favor of the NYC Department of Transportation proposal to transform the southwest corner of Westchester and East Tremont avenues into a pedestrian plaza.
“We want people and the merchants to give it a chance,” said CB10 district manager, Matt Cruz after the vote.
The new plaza would replace the existing triangle-shaped traffic island that currently provides a slipway for vehicles traveling east on Westchester Avenue, to turn southbound to East Tremont Avenue.
The DOT plan would enlarge the pedestrian area by removing the slipway and the parking spaces in front of the City Marshal’s Office, Beyond Barber Academy, William’s Café, NY Bronx Pizza, and the U.S. Army Career Center to make the plaza area twice the size and connected to the East Tremont sidewalk.
Expanding this pedestrian area would shorten the crosswalk distance between that corner and the Westchester Square IRT #6 train station and the north west side of East Tremont.
It’s design would look similar to other plazas the DOT has designed around the city, which layers a lightcolored gravel material on the street to denote the pedestrian section and bordered by flexible delineators, planters, and granite blocks.
The plaza would be a public space and will have removable tables and chairs. The maintenance, security and uses of the plaza would be entirely up to the Westchester Square Business Improvement District.
Director of the BID, Lisa Sorin, said the goal of the plaza would be to draw more business to the stores that exist in the building at that southern corner.
Sorin explained the corner-most building burned down about 10 years ago and after it was rebuilt, the landlord was concerned about the lack of pedestrians on that side of the street.
Most of the merchants are looking forward to the implementation of the plaza.
Miguel Rosales, owner of the William’s Café said the plaza would directly help his 3-year-old business, because it would give his customers the option to eat outdoors in the nicer weather.
“When people see our customers eating outside, they’ll be more interested to order our food, too,” said Rosales.
The owner of Beyond Barber Academy, Rosie Medina, said the plaza would help the business by giving it more outdoor space to do marketing, as well as providing more space to cut hair.
“We’ve thought about putting a tent out front to offer free haircuts to people walking by,” said Medina as she explained her school often does free outdoor haircuts when she and her students are invited to public street festivals.
Opponents of the plaza don’t believe the plaza will be utilized the way the BID and DOT predict, and will cost them four parking spaces.
However, DOT said the parking spaces would not be lost.
Instead the four spots would be moved to the right of White Castle, where the NYC Department of Education parking starts.
In addition there is concern the plaza would attract more loitering.
Construction of the plaza is expected to start at the end of the summer and completed before school returns.