PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors and First Weekends organizers have agreed to work together to find other ways to hold their events without shutting down City Hall Place each time.
The street will, however, be closed this weekend.
“There has been such a big buildup to make this weekend’s event a big event because it coincided with the Fourth of July weekend, and we are expecting a big crowd,” First Weekends President Tim McCormick told councilors at their meeting Thursday night.
“So we will keep the road closed this weekend, but we look forward to working with you and finding other ways to solve some of the issues.”
Mayor James Calnon said last week that he had received complaints from several downtown business owners who said that closing City Hall Place on the first Saturday of every month from April to November cuts into customer traffic.
The council agreed in February to close City Hall Place from just before noon to about 8 p.m. each first Saturday for First Weekends, a celebration that involves music, art and family events.
But Calnon said the decision to close the road needed to be re-visited because of the merchant complaints.
The mayor considered seeking to rescind the motion to close the streets but backed off and instead asked the council to approve a motion that urged First Weekends organizers to modify their plans for the rest of the year to avoid closing City Hall Place.
“First Weekends has only been going on for a year, so there are still some growing pains with it,” Calnon said.
“We want to grow with you and come up ideas to make this work, and rescinding the resolution should not be the first step.”
The mayor, who earlier this year donated $500 to First Weekends and participated as a guest bartender to raise funds for the effort, noted that several other areas in the downtown area could be used for First Weekend celebrations without closing streets.
“Closing City Hall Place is really closing Route 9 in the city, and that is akin to closing Route 3 in the Town of Plattsburgh. Think of what that would do to business up there,” Calnon said.
“I know it is a lot shorter piece of highway, but it really does have the same effect.”
Sam Pirofsky of Ashley Furniture, at the corner of Durkee and Bridge Streets adjacent to City Hall Place, said that although he supports First Weekends, the closure of the road was not only hurting his own business but First Weekends as well because not as many people wanted to take a detour to get to the party.
“At the June event, I saw only about 15 or 20 people, and there was nobody in the street, so I don’t think you need to close it down,” Pirofsky said.
Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1) said the city should re-evaluate the First Weekends plans.
“I think this is a good point to begin a joint process of evaluating this and acknowledging some of these concerns,” she said.
Councilor Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) said the option the mayor offered to hold the event in other places was a good start.
“I encourage you (McCormick) to move the festivities all over downtown so many businesses can benefit,” Kelly said.
Councilor Paul O’Connell (D-Ward 4) said it wouldn’t be fair to First Weekends to rescind the motion to close City Hall Place, but he hopes they will consider some alternatives.
“I think next year this should be laid out all at the beginning of the year exactly where each event of each month will be so we know for sure and can deal with it,” O’Connell said.
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