Parking Space for 4, Please

Main Street in Beacon pivots as Phase 2 begins 

An ad hoc committee of Beacon and Dutchess County officials, Main Street merchants and members of BeaconArts has been working behind the scenes for the last month to ensure a smooth reopening for retail and restaurants as the state begins lifting restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This week the group began rolling out its ideas, the most noticeable of which will be “parklets” — an arrangement that converts curbside spaces into public seating. 

The concept isn’t new. Parklets were first seen in San Francisco around 2005, when activists created them to “take back” public spaces. They have popped up more recently in New York state as municipalities seek ways to balance businesses’ needs with social-distancing guidelines. 

By midweek, the parklets — which, according to some planners, slow traffic and create a more communal atmosphere — and other creative arrangements had begun to take shape along Main. The city also allowed some restaurants to use sidewalk space for dining, as long as the sidewalks were wide enough to maintain social distancing and still remain accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“We haven’t come up with anything completely novel,” said George Mansfield, a member of the City Council who owns the Dogwood bar and restaurant. “But, as a group, we need to communicate the message that we take the protocols very seriously.”

To spread that message, the committee is creating “Beacon Back Together” posters to distribute to businesses. The posters will encourage visitors, residents and merchants to “be kind, be safe, be responsible.” 

Beacon retailers and restaurants have been hit hard by the shutdown, Mansfield said, because of overhead costs they incur whether open or closed. The switch since March to curbside pickup and delivery has been “nothing more than a Band-Aid to keep the lights on for most people,” added Brendan McAlpine, who owns the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Co. and is project developer at the Story Screen Beacon Theater.

The ad hoc committee considered asking the city to temporarily close parts of Main Street to allow for more outdoor business. That idea didn’t stick, but an event on Main to celebrate the resilience of Beacon’s business community is possible.

“People here have weathered this and are eager to welcome guests again, even in a limited capacity,” McAlpine said. “This has reaffirmed my faith in humanity a little bit. This is what makes Beacon, Beacon.”

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