Staten Island summer festivals 2021: Every Saturday through August, roads will close for food and fun on Van Duzer Street

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Bring on the empanadas and soul food! Each Saturday for 12 consecutive weeks starting this weekend, restaurants and small businesses will be the draw to the heart of Stapleton with regular block parties. The section of Van Duzer at Wright and Beach Streets will be closed to vehicular traffic on those days to promote community gatherings from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Van Duzer Street Civic Association has organized the family-friendly series through NYC’s Open Streets car-free program. It will continue from June 12 through the rest of the summer.

Chicken empanadas at Amira’s in Stapleton (Courtesy of Amira’s)

“The NYC DOT is providing a budget to make this event possible,” said Priscilla Marco, the association’s president.

She added, “We are excited to partner with local businesses and to create an event which will bring more foot-traffic to the area and increase our membership. Especially for newer businesses such as Amira Cafe and Shaw-naé’s House which have opened during the Pandemic.”

Marco refers to a bistro with Puerto Rican fare and a week-old, sit-down eatery with a Southern-style menu.

Musician and Advance columnist Gary Moore aka “This Old Guy” is among the organizers along with Paramount Theater owner Peter Lisi and Rose Uscianowski of Transportation Alternatives. Moore will be playing guitar each Saturday and said the social setting will be mindful of the pandemic from which the world is emerging.

“Because of COVID and precautions performers are 12 feet away from the audience,” he said. Masks are encouraged.

“What we’re trying to do is bring attention to all the businesses that have sprung up in the neighborhood,” Moore continued. He pointed also to Richmond Tattoo (once known as The Muddy Cup), The Hop Shoppe (former Martini Red), Redroom Studios, speakeasy The Coupe and Honor Wines, to name a few places ready for local love.

“There’s going to be a lot going on — arts and crafts for the kids. On Saturday at 4 p.m. Be Yoga from Rosebank will give a demo and people can go home with a free yoga mat,” said Moore.

The Hop Shoppe owner Carmine Gualtieri said, “We are going to start out this week with some outdoor draft beer including craft styles and frozen Margarita pops. Our walk-up service window is open also. In the future we will have performances and music outside.”

Local brewers such as Flagship Brewing Co. of Tompkinsville are represented in the Hop Shoppe inventory for the Open Streets Saturdays. Down the line, Gualtieri plans for a pig roast.

Amira Cafe & Bistro will offer its from-scratch empanadas, fresh smoothies and classic Puerto Rican favorites.

Said proprietor Amira Cintron, “We do have tables and a booth outside for families to enjoy out door dining, as well as inside dining available. What I envision for ‘Duzer Day’ is to bring, back the community, to show them that small business are here, as well as give a small hope of normality. It was a rough year and a half and we deserve a little weekend distraction.”

Priscilla Marco maintained, “People need to get out. People need to listen to music. People need to eat in restaurants. Sorry, we’re shutting the street but we’re doing it for the right reason. It’s an ambitious project but there are so many performers who haven’t been able to perform. And they’re jumping for the opportunity.”

Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].