A major public works project has been completed in the heart of one of the borough’s most bustling commercial areas.
The opening of the newly reconstructed Roberto Clemente Pedestrian Plaza, a $16 million public space in the heart of Melrose/The ‘Hub’, was celebrated with a festive ribbon cutting on Saturday, November 24.
The project’s completion at East 149th Street and Third Avenue coincided with the celebration of Small Business Saturday, a day after ‘Black Friday’ that draws attention to small businesses, like those that line the commercial corridor near the plaza.
The approximately 17,000 square foot public space has been in the making since 2008 when DOT closed off what had been a triangular streetscape and began the design and construction process, said Michael Brady, Third Avenue Business Improvement District executive director.
The new project, undertaken by the NYC Department of Transportation and the NYC Department of Design and Construction, includes new lighting, bus shelters, seating areas, open spaces, planters and 15-foot-wide sidewalks.
Infrastructure improvements were also made in the plaza and on nearby streets, including upgraded water mains and sewers, and enhanced road work, said Brady.
“This has been a ten-year public works project in the making,” said Brady, adding that he expects the completed plaza to be a boon to the transportation hub that is serviced by six bus lines and two north-south subway lines.
“The plaza being opens gives people a lot more open space, the connectivity to the north and south parts of the district, and also programing space for the BID,” said Brady.
The business improvement district executive director said he envisions the space becoming a hub for BID programming, which can be everything from seasonal pumpkins festivals and holiday lights to reading days and movie nights.
“Well-programmed open space really helps deter unsavory activity such as loitering and drug sales,” said Brady. “It also makes the plaza a hub in itself, giving community members a place to congregate and celebrate.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. added $500,000 in capital funding towards the redevelopment of the plaza.
“This ribbon cutting is a culmination of our efforts as a community to help small businesses thrive not only in ‘The Hub,’ but across our borough,” said Diaz, adding it was a part of a transformative change taking place in the borough that was in part caused by small business being able to flourish in the borough.
Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr. said that he was glad that the plaza was finally completed so that the Third Avenue BID can begin programming at the plaza using funding he fought for in the city council.
“Centrally located in my district, the Roberto Clemente Plaza has great potential to support the dynamic energy in the neighborhood and drive local economic growth,” said Salamanca.
Greg Bishop, the NYC Department of Small Business Services commissioner, said that the opening of the plaza on Small Business Saturday is symbolic of the impact it would have on the local business economy.
“Thousands of commuters and residents pass through ‘The Hub’ daily,” said Nivardo Lopez, Bronx DOT commissioner. “What was once just a traffic triangle has now been transformed into a vibrant plaza reflective of this south Bronx community.”