PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors agreed to close off part of a downtown street for an upcoming event, but one councilor wants to take it a bit further next summer.
“Maybe we should close the street the whole summer,” Councilor Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) said at the Common Council’s recent meeting.
Tiffer was referring to a stretch of City Hall Place from Bridge Street to Court Street that features restaurants and other businesses. That section of the street is often closed for special events, such as Mayor’s Cup and Battle of Plattsburgh.
Irises Cafe, a high-profile restaurant on the east side of the street, requested that City Hall Place be closed from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, for a block party to celebrate the eatery’s 15th year in business.
As the councilors were considering the request to close the street, which they approved, Tiffer said the city should think about closing it for the entire summer next year.
“We close it a lot for special events, and there is limited parking there anyway,” he said.
But, contacted by the Press-Republican later, Irises owner Carol McLean said she is not in favor of closing the road for the entire summer.
“We rely on the traffic going by,” she said. “The outdoor dining makes us more visible, and people see it and they stop.”
Irises started outdoor dining in the summer of 2006. Each season, the restaurant blocks off parking spaces along the street with large cement barriers and adds tables and umbrellas.
The Pepper, a Mexican restaurant across the street from Irises, started outdoor dining in 2011.
Champlain Wine Co. added outdoor seating near the corner of City Hall Place and Bridge Street this year, and Olive Ridley’s on Court Street has tables outside, as well.
McLean said many tourists have told her that they decided to stop for a meal after seeing the outdoor dining while driving by on City Hall Place, which is a continuation of State Route 9.
Tiffer believes that most of the traffic on City Hall Place is locals cutting through downtown on their way out of the city.
“If we closed it, we would have more pedestrians walking around exploring,” he said.
McLean said that perhaps closing the street once a week might be a good compromise.
“When the street is closed for special events, we do get a lot of walk-up traffic, if the weather is nice, of course,” she said.
Tiffer agreed with McLean that it might be a good idea to experiment next summer by closing the street on weekends only.
“We can try it and see what hurdles there might be,” he said.
“But it’s good to get the idea out there and see what people think.”
Tiffer also said he will look into whether the street can be closed on a more permanent basis, since it is a state roadway. He said he looked into a program in New York City called Summer Streets, where main thoroughfares such as parts of Park Avenue are closed to vehicles for the summer.
“If New York City can close a major lane like that, then I think we should be able to do it here in Plattsburgh,” he said.
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