Pictured Above: The easternmost block of Greenport’s Front Street was closed to traffic the weekend of June 20 to allow more outdoor dining.

As businesses throughout the East End make dramatic changes to their operations for coronavirus safety reasons, downtowns here are experimenting with new ideas for pedestrian and traffic flow to accommodate the continued need for social distancing.

Many local towns and villages are taking steps to make it easier for restaurants to have outdoor dining, from Greenport experimenting with shutting down the last block of Front Street and building ‘parklets’ in roadside parallel parking stalls to give businesses and pedestrians more safe outdoor space to Riverhead modifying its “Alive on 25” summer street fair with a new concept called “Dine on 25.” 

Southampton Village is experimenting with shutting down a portion of Jobs Lane and Main Street on Saturday evenings, and Southold Town is planning to shut down a section of Love Lane in Mattituck to traffic on weekends through the fall.

Greenport Village, working with the village’s Business Improvement District, has been experimenting with numerous ideas for businesses to expand outdoors, where the risk of transmission of the coronavirus is greatly diminished compared with indoor spaces.

The idea that had gained the most traction as of late June was a series of “parklets,” areas that had been parallel parking stalls along Main and Front Streets that have been converted, using railroad ties and plantings, into outdoor seating areas and space for retail businesses to showcase their wares.

While the village had shut down vehicle access to the last block of Front Street as an experiment on the weekends of June 20 and July 4, plans were up in the air for whether to continue that experiment into the summer, said Village BID member Ian Wile in a June 26 update.

“The BID continues to remain hopeful and advocate for additional outdoor commerce space for our merchants. Focusing specifically on the “Front Street Block (between Main and First Street)“, we have continued to work on vetting a design through ShoP Architects that creates greater outdoor space for those merchants on the FSB,” said Mr. Wile, who added that the current proposal in the works includes putting “parklets” on both sides of the Front Street block (only the north side has parallel parking spaces), allowing sidewalk access for merchants who don’t want to use a parklet, contemplating making the Front Street block one way, heading west, Monday through Thursday and closing the block to traffic on weekends.

“This design embraces all aspects and balances concerns. ShoP Architects are working to finalize this design and the BID is working to source the additional material and components along with labor for installation,” said Mr. Wile. “Fourth of July is one week away and then the high season starts, so we need to continue to push to get these areas open and working for our merchants.”

Southold Town is planning to shut down the Love Lane shopping district in Mattituck to vehicles on weekends through October.

The Southold Town Board unanimously approved the measure, which would allow businesses to conduct more activity on the sidewalks and would enable better social distancing, when it was floated by Councilman Bob Ghosio at the board’s June 16 meeting.

Mr. Ghosio said he has a list of about a dozen businesses on Love Lane that support the proposal, and the temporary postmaster of the Mattituck Post Office doesn’t see any issues with it.

The road closure would begin at noon on Saturdays and continue through 6 a.m. on Mondays on weekends through Oct. 31, according to the resolution.

The Mattituck Post Office is only open until 1 p.m. on Saturdays, so it would only be affected for one hour each week.

Mr. Ghosio said the town will begin the experiment once Jersey barriers on order arrive to close the road.

The closure would comprise one block of Love Lane, from the Main Road to Pike Street, where most of the shops are located.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty, a member of the Mattituck Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, said she believes Mattituck Fire Chief Steve Libretto will be sending a letter to the board with his concerns, which she believes include making sure the fire department can move the barriers to access the street if there is a fire.

“I don’t think the chief is going to say ‘no, we don’t want it,’” she said.

“I just want to thank Bob [Ghosio] and Denis [Noncarrow] for working on this, because it took a group of people to make it happen,” said Ms. Doherty.

Despite intense thunderstorms on the evening of Saturday, June 27, Southampton Village shut down Main Street and Jobs Lane for the evening for a pilot program known as “Southampton in the Streets” to encourage outdoor dining.

Lucharitos in Greenport is one of the restaurants taking advantage of a “parklet” for extra outdoor seating.

The evening’s program, which began after the storm cleared, included live music on the lawn of the Southampton Arts Center, a DJ on Main Street, a performance by a fire dancer at 75 Main and a food truck from the Plaza Café.

The village is considering holding the event on Saturdays throughout the summer.

Downtown Riverhead has seen a revival in recent summers due to the “Alive on 25” summer street fair series modeled after Patchogue’s wildly popular “Alive After Five.” 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no Alive on 25 this summer, but Riverhead’s Business Improvement District is working on a new program called “Dine on 25” that would include closing Main Street to traffic but would not be open to outside vendors. Instead, local restaurants and businesses would be allowed to expand out into the street. 

The BID will hold “Dine on 25” on four Thursdays this summer — July 16 July 30, Aug. 13 and Aug. 27


Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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