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BED-STUY, BROOKLYN — Neighbors on Lewis Avenue who say their block is plagued by rats and piles of trash are pushing back on a plan to open up the street to outdoor shopping and dining this summer.
“I’m essentially a prisoner in my own home because I don’t go outside to avoid the rats,” said Kemba Dunham, who lives a block north of where the street will be closed to traffic. “The fact that there is going to be an event that will bring more people, more trash to the streets is just ridiculous.”
Dunham is among a group of neighbors hoping organizers of the Open Street, Bridge Street Development Corporation, will abandon the idea despite its recent approval from the city’s Department of Transportation.
Bridge Street contends the Open Street — which would close four blocks between Decatur and Hancock streets on eight Saturday afternoons — will bring much-needed foot traffic to local businesses, as a similar Open Street has on Tompkins Avenue.
They say a waste removal company Foot Soldiers and local police will ensure traffic and clean-up run smoothly on the summer Saturdays.
But some neighbors aren’t convinced.
“If the city’s not able to [clean up Lewis Avenue], how are you able to do it?” Dunham said, noting that she has placed 311 calls for months about trash pile-ups and rodents on the block.
For others, the potential benefit to the block doesn’t outweigh the headache the Open Street could cause.
“The area is primarily residential,” said Adrian Ellis, who lives on MacDonough Street and Lewis Avenue. “Having an overflow of people on Lewis Avenue eight Saturdays over the summer is undesirable and not really suitable for this location which is not heavily commercial.”
Patch counted about a dozen restaurant and retail businesses spanning the four Lewis Avenue blocks of the Open Street.
Owners of several businesses on the street were not reachable by phone Wednesday, though an employee at Peaches told Patch that owners are “not happy about” the Open Street. At least one Lewis Avenue business owner has said publicly the Open Street will help with business, according to a report in BK Reader.
A nearby business owner, Denise Allen, who runs Miles Funeral Home on Decatur Street, said the Open Street will be a “pain” for traffic. Lewis Avenue is a route Allen often uses to bring family to the cemetery, so closing it will mean longer drives that could bump up the cost for families.
“It seems like a total inconvenience,” she said.
Bridge Street has said traffic barricades will be set up at the southern cross walk of Hancock Street and the northern crosswalk of Decatur Street, meaning through-traffic will be allowed on either end of the Open Street. Blockades will also be set up at the Charles C. Pinn triangle on Fulton Street to stop traffic from coming up Lewis, though traffic from Bainbridge Street will be able to drive up Lewis to get to Decatur.
The Department of Transportation will reroute Lewis Avenue’s B15 bus onto Fulton Street during the Open Street hours, according to the organization.
Among the frustration for neighbors is what they say has been a lack of communication from Bridge Street. Both Allen and Dunham told Patch they only heard about the Open Street from friends a few weeks ago.
Bridge Street, who applied for the Open Street in January, told Patch they reached out to the community board, council member’s office, police precinct and block associations before sending in the application. They’ve also promised to start a “task force” to address concerns, which already led to cutting the number of Saturdays the Open Street will run.
For some neighbors, though, the task force will come too little too late.
“You’re supposed to be working with us — they didn’t even try,” Dunham said. “I have very little faith that the issues we’re concerned about are going to be addressed if this happens.”
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