2003-03-06 / View From the Middle

View From

The MiddleAve. L Revitalization: Same Old Ho-Hum Stuff
By Charles Rogers

The Middle
Ave. L Revitalization: Same Old Ho-Hum Stuff

It was good to see some interest — nearly two months ago —relating to the commercial condition of Avenue L between Remsen Avenue and Rock-away Parkway.

It was on January 5 of this year that a big deal meeting of the "Avenue L Task Force," including a diverse cross-section of people who wanted to see the once-thriving commercial strip revitalized and buzzing with activity again, took place in the auditorium of the HES.

There were a lot of people at that first meeting — nearly two months ago — from local civic association leaders to political people, to police to clerics. Also attending were representatives of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, community affairs specialists from the likes of KeySpan and Con Edison and economic development experts from borough and city government.

And there were a few merchants from the street itself. Just a few.

Of course, you could depend on some of the "regulars," being there. Pharmacist Marty Niedelman, a former president of the Avenue L Merchants As-sociation, and Attorney Michael Steiner, the group’s current president, were on hand, as were others who wanted to help; who wanted to see something, anything, happen to wake up the sleeping street.

It used to be such a great shopping area! So many of us remember when it was fairly bustling — and that wasn’t necessarily just at Christmastime. There were boutiques and beauty salons and, hey, I remember when there was a knitting store that I drove my wife to from East Flatbush before I moved here. A knitting store, of all things! And it flourished! How many of you remember Lily’s "boutique," so to speak, a shop where ladies could pick up a housecoat without spending a bundle; or John’s Bargain Store, which later became Kenny’s and is currently called Big John’s (almost the same thing, really)?

Don’t get me wrong; there are still a few stores that have been around for years ’n years ’n years: the old stalwarts that you just knew would not go down with the economic times, if for no other reason than just plain old-time Canarsie stubbornness. Oh, sure, even being stubborn didn’t work for some, who just couldn’t cut it anymore when rents soared, like Canarsie Hardware and the Home Bakery.

Omigosh! I just realized I’m sounding like a real old-timer. Believe it or not, though, it wasn’t that long ago when Avenue L was such a commercial street!

There have been attempts in the recent past to revitalize Avenue L. I remember about eight or ten years ago when the now-defunct Canarsie Neighborhood Development Corporation embarked on a plan to seek a BID — Business Improvement District —status there but it died in the planning because, along with an infusion of dollars from the government, matching funds would be needed from bankers, merchants and building owners.

I realize the latest "task force" meeting was a mere two months ago and things take time. When that meeting came to an end. A second meeting was not scheduled, but plans call for them to meet on a bimonthly basis.

It’s time. Don’t drop the ball. If you think I’m being pushy... you’re right.

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