Main Street Needs More Than a Block Party

February 18, 2022

Dear Editor,

The article about the pilot program to close Main Street to traffic on select weekends raises some obvious questions that deserve to be answered ("Pilot Closing Main Street Boosted Business, With Small Traffic Impact, Officials Say," February 15, 2022).

The article states Transportation Director Edward F. reported traffic levels "increased slightly" and had "little impact" on adjacent streets.

But by Mr. King's own reported numbers, traffic in fact increased by 65 percent on 2nd Street, 65 percent on 3rd Street, 32 percent on Neilson Way and 22 percent on 4th Street -- and that was just during the first 1st weekend of the pilot.

Why was traffic not monitored during the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th weekends of the pilot program? It's not like those numbers decreased.

Mr King reported pedestrian traffic "jumped" over a 10 hour period by 550 percent from 1150 to 7500 -- how was that measured? On which day? Or was that an approximate blend over the entire 8 days of the closure? What is the typical increase in pedestrian foot traffic on a summer day from 9 am to 7 pm?

Also, Mr. King states the "slow pace on roads," (i.e traffic) "allowed people to visit local establishments they might not otherwise frequent and to discover businesses they might not have known existed while driving."

Really? How was that measured? Was that observed first hand by staff? Was someone stuck in traffic, so they decided to pull over, go into Arts & Letters and buy a card?

The articles states that "to enliven streets, businesses were allowed to expand further from their storefronts," unfortunately the articles and city officials both failed to mention that none of them did, it would have required more staff, more tables and chairs and it was simply not worth the expense.

There were some picnic tables in the center of the street. Who paid for those? The city? The lobbyist organization for Main Street Business? Because not 1 business expanded into the street.

Mr King reported the program costs the city $141,070 not including staff time. Does that mean the staff worked those weekends of the events & collected overtime? What was the real total for this pilot program?

Finally, Mr. King states "54 percent of business reported an increase in sales, 19 percent reported a decrease. Who benefited most, specifically, which restaurant or bar?

The staff at Lula said it wasn't worth it, same for the staff at Ric's Tavern, so who? At Lorraine Colour bar, several stylists stated clients just rescheduled appointments for weekdays to avoid circling the neighborhood for parking.

Who is profiting from closing Main Street to all traffic on weekends? That is the biggest unanswered question.

P.S. If the city wants to make Main Street more appealing to residents and a more profitable place to do business the solution is clear: Use available funds to implement a holistic approach to reducing homelessness -- addiction, mental health and affordable housing, rather that to fund a block party. It's not as sexy or glamorous and it's a complicated problem to solve, but that's where the funds need to go. It also doesn't help to have so many vacant Storefronts on Main Street as landlords hold out for top dollar rather than devalue the paper value of their assets. How many more years will 2826 Main Street (Corner of Ashland and Main) remain vacant? How can the city incentivize landlords to lease storefronts for a reduced price rather than to have them remain empty? This is where the real work needs to be done.


Robert Maschio
20 year Ocean Park Resident & Associate Real Estate Broker

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