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Strolling Down Seventh Street

Friday night promenade success is promising

The jury is still out on whether weekly Friday night promenades will take off on Seventh Street but in spite of what seemed like an interminable heat wave,visitors trickled to town last Friday to check out the festivities. Crowds were sparse earlier in the evening and grew as the sun set. Families with children in tow and couples out for dinner generally embraced the promenade idea.

To the tunes of live music, most parties were either heading to dinner or making a beeline to TCBY Yogurt for a frosty treat.

Vinay and Richa Arora along with their 2-year-old daughter were enjoying their TCBY creations. The Aroras heard about the Friday night promenade at the Belmont Fair.

“We had a great time at the fair and met up with many friends, so we decided to come back for the Friday event,” shared Vinay Arora.  “I think it’s a great way to start the weekend.”

TCBY experts Emily Farrell,9, Morgan Salmon,10, Joe Zaldivar,10, and Amanda Farrell, 10, were also excited to dig into their favorite flavors including cookies and cream, cake batter and cookie dough.

Trustee and Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopia and his wife Dorothy were spotted strolling down Seventh Street. Episcopia said he supported the idea.

I’m never opposed to trying something new,” added Episcopia. “It’s still up in the air whether it will be successful but I’m hopeful.”

Some families expressed interest in more activities for children. The Belmont fair boasts music and rides but most seemed happy to enjoy a cold treat with their family.

The Garden City Board of Trustees developed the promenade concept with the support of John E. Wilton, chairman of the Merchants Professionals and Realtors Group. The idea was to steer traffic during the months of July and August, a usually slow business period. The promenade initiative began on July 5 and will continue every Friday evening through August from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Seventh Street, between Franklin and Hilton avenues, will be closed to all vehicular traffic.

Wilton added that the core concept was to meet three goals: offset the slow summer months; attract consumers from outside the community; and encourage residents to incorporate Friday night promenades into their summer plans.

“We want Friday night to be the night you come out and socialize with your neighbors, meet new friends and pay it forward,” explained Wilton.

He noted that many local businesses support philanthropic causes throughout the year for schools, Boys and Girl Scouts and many other organizations.

It’s been a slow start with the first week coinciding with the July 4 holiday, the second week it rained and the past week’s heat wave.

Mayor John Watras has supported the idea, hoping that the Friday evening festivities will encourage residents and visitors to spend more time on Seventh Street to take advantage of outdoor dining, live entertainment and shopping.

Though some business owners are not in favor of closing off the streets and some have vented frustration that they were not part of the planning process, a few seemed to think a variation of the initial idea may be more effective.

“I think anything to boost business is a great idea,” said Lisa Smith, owner of Coquette. “Though maybe a concept like First Friday, once a month, would be more effective and allow it to be a  bigger event.”

However, Phil Falk, who owns Leo’s, has been quite pleased since he’s seen an increase in business.

“People are coming to town for the promenades,” added Falk. “Normally Fourth of July is light and I had a very good day thanks to the event. I think it’s working out.”

When contacted by Anton Community Newspapers, Watras advised that he considered Friday night’s turnout to be pretty healthy. He also added that any business owners with concerns should reach out to him directly.

“We are not trying to hurt anyone, we are trying to help everyone,” said Watras. “I plan on speaking to the police commissioner to gauge whether the entire street has to be closed off and to determine if there is a better traffic pattern.”

According to Watras, plans for the fall may include a September promenade, Oktoberfest and a Christmas-themed event.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly, who has worked very closely with Watras on the concept, believes so far the promenades are working out.

“We are trying it out and so far results indicate it’s very positive,” said Donnelly. “Seventh Street started to get more crowded a little later on in the evening. It was a great family atmosphere and the most successful promenade so far.”

Garden City resident Angela Haffner, who was out for the evening with her husband and three children, summed up the experience as “one big block party.”

Rob and Suzie Alvey dined at Walk Street and commented that they had visited the promenade for the third time in two weeks, which is exactly the type of repeat business the trustees were hoping for.

The concept seems to be a welcome event on Seventh Street; whether it draws enough visitors and businesses to see an uptick in sales remains to be seen.