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RED BANK: PLAZA LIMITS IRK OUTSIDERS

red-bank-broad-street-plaza-062020-6-500x332-9183204Abutting restaurant setups at the north end of Broad Street have created an atmosphere that’s drawing customers away from other restaurants, some owners say. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[See CORRECTION below]

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-220x138-7378486Is a north-south divide developing on Broad Street in Red Bank?

Owners of some businesses located just south of the month-old Broadwalk street plaza say they’re being unfairly cut out of a boom in downtown visitors.

katerin-giambalvo-070920-500x332-8392508Monticello owner Katerin Giambalvo, above, and Temple Gourmet Chinese owner Victor Kuo, below, say the pedestrian and dining plaza is drawing customers away from their businesses and others. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

red-bank-victor-kuo-061820-220x146-6637182Victor Kuo, owner of Temple Gourmet Chinese, said one of his servers was about to seat a party of four recently when one guest pointed north and said, “let’s see what’s going on up there.”

With that, the group walked off, headed toward the twinkling café lights of the so-called Broadwalk, the stretch of Broad Street set off by barricades between Wallace and Front Streets.

“It’s obviously been successful,” Kuo told redbankgreen, “but it’s sucking our customers away.”

Kuo says he been working with a half-dozen or so restauranteurs and retailers who have been pressing the borough’s Reopening Task Force to extend the southern terminus of the plaza to Peters Place.

To address concerns about movement of emergency service vehicles, he proposed a “one-block interruption” in the plaza, between Monmouth and Wallace streets, which would remain open to vehicle traffic, he said.

If that’s not feasible, he said, north and south zones on Broad could operate on an alternating weekly schedule. [CORRECTION: Kuo told redbankgreen that “one proposal was to flip-flop north and south” on an alternating basis, but Kuo said he did not endorse that idea because the plaza in the north end “is working” and should be extended instead.]

The Broadwalk concept, which closes Broad north of Wallace to vehicles from Thursday afternoon through Sunday “is working, so why fix something that isn’t broken? Just expand it,” said Kuo. “Anything that successful you try to make bigger and better.”

But the proposals are not feasible, said borough Business Administrator Ziad Shehady.

The proposed extended closure “presents various logistical, operational, safety and traffic concerns that have been discussed at length on multiple occasions,” he told Kuo via email last week.

“As a result, the advisory committee as a whole is not able to recommend such a closure plan based on the feedback from the Borough professional team.”

More specifically, in an email response to a redbankgreen inquiry, Shehady cited traffic issues:

This large-scale closure [as proposed by Kuo] presents more significant challenges because Wallace and Linden are parallel, opposing directional, one-way streets feeding residential neighborhoods and that a high volume of traffic from Maple Ave and Broad Street would now be exclusively funnelled through Monmouth and through residential streets placing a tremendous burden on infrastructure, resources, and personnel.  It also affects mass transit (NJ Transit buses) and jeopardizes public safety response (police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks).  This kind of closure would require more barricades, more police for traffic control, more time spent by public works and police to start the closures and re-open the streets.

Katerin Giambalvo, owner and chef at Monticello, located just 200 or so feet south of the Broadwalk zone, said she was “very disappointed” that the committee did not extend the plaza farther south.

“The atmosphere that’s down there, with the music and all the media attention,” is actually taking away my customers,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.

“If the pandemic doesn’t put us out of business, that concept and the pandemic is going to put us out of business,” she said.

redbankgreen spoke to Giambalvo before the borough created a concrete-sided “streatery” near Monticello, enabling her to add curbside tables.

Another streatery was added outside Tacoholics and Bombay River, south-of-Monmouth restaurants that Kuo said had also pushed for a plaza extension. Their owners could not be reached for comment.

The streateries effort is one of several by the committee to accommodate restaurants near but outside the plaza, said Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Laura Kirkpatrick, who serves on the reopening task force.

She said the creation of the plazas was a “huge” achievement, one that “positioned Red Bank to emerge from the pandemic strong and resilient.” She referred questions about issues related to Kuo’s proposal to Shehady.

Even within the Broadwalk zone, south of White Street, there’s a relative lack of activity, compared the north end, where Bistro, Robinson Ale House, Patrizia’s, Catch 19, Char and Surf Taco have abutting street dining areas.

“All the actions down there,” photographer Bob McKay told redbankgreen Sunday, pointing north, as he and wife Liz ended a day selling wares from her new Hedgehog and Ivy baby clothing line from a tent at the corner of Broad and Wallace.

“It looks more fun over there,” said Cesar Mendez, who bought the Shapiro’s New York Delicatessen almost a year ago.

But while he hasn’t taken advantage of the street outside because he doesn’t do much dinner business, his eatery has benefitted from the plaza, Mendez said.

“It helps me, because people come by and see my restaurant,” he said. “Not a huge amount, but it helps.”

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