Two community spaces in the vicinity of the New Town Clock Tower were opened to the public last Friday.
One is the stretch, named Community Zone, under the Axis Mall flyover bifurcated by a motorable road that allows cars to make a U-turn under the bridge or cross over from the Axis Mall side to the Central mall side or vice versa. On one side of the bifurcation, a meeting place has been created with cement stools, there are children’s play equipment like a slide and a see-saw in an enclosed space, and an information booth. A sitting area has been provided with chess boards as table tops, each table surrounded by four seats.
The space on the other side of the bifurcation has the words ‘street theatre’ written on the brightly painted floor, as if demarcating the stage. On one side, there are pictures of personalities from various fields — Swami Vivekananda to Sourav Ganguly to Kalpana Chawla — on bright monochrome pillars of the flyover. On the other side, there are some food stalls, with benches. A pay-and-use toilet is further up.
The other community space is a stone’s throw away. Christened Streets4People zone, it comprises Street 106 and the barren stretches of land on both its sides, and is at right angles to the Community Zone. A brightly painted barrier at the head of the street makes the area off limits for motor vehicles, offering a free way to pedestrians, with a cycling track running along the street.
Food trucks have been given permission to park along the street and sell food items from 6.30pm till midnight.
“IT professionals return late from work. They can hang out here after work and get food on the way home. This will become a vibrant part of New Town’s nightlife. As for the space under the bridge, it will be a resting space for delivery boys of the home delivery services,” said
Debashis Sen, chairman of NKDA and managing director of Hidco.
An aerial view of the Streets4People on the first day of the food truck festival. Picture courtesy Nairit Datta Gupta
Children enjoy a ride on a merry-go-round installed on the pavement
A three-day festival was organised last weekend to kickstart the opening of the facilities. The festival included a futsal tournament with five-member teams from across New Town. It was held on a patch of green in front of Central Mall. Live music was provided by local college bands.
Of the 13 food trucks that parked at the plaza last weekend, while some belonged to the public sector like Benfish, SFDC, Haringhata and CADC, others were established hospitality industry brands like Marriott, Domino’s Pizza and Qmin on the Move, the home delivery wing of the Taj Group. There were sundry private local players too.
The general manager of Taj Bengal and area director, West Bengal Vijay Shrikent attended the festival launch. “We are offering food from the Taj kitchen here at an attractive price point,” he said.
The festival saw sizeable footfall with the food trucks recording robust sales. “We are the sole vegetarian-only outlet here. We used to take our food truck to Sukhobrishti. But this is a nice location as it is close to a mall. We are getting very good response,” said Saurabh Agarwal, a resident of Rosedale Garden whose family runs Snack Track.
Even after the festival, the food trucks will continue to do business at the two zones — Street4People zone and the pavement in front of Mother’s Wax Museum — except on Mondays. As of now, Bite Junction is the only food truck parking at the second spot. But more like Burger Bros and Kebab Mein Haddi are getting ready. “The festival was such a success that we got more customers than we were prepared for. Even now business is good. So we are getting a second truck ready for the Wax Museum site,” said Subhasish Ghosh of Burger Bros.
While trade licence has been granted to the food trucks at the two zones for three months, the NKDA’s food truck policy released by urban development minister Firhad Hakim at the festival inauguration mentions two other zones, to be inaugurated in the next phase — near Sukhobrishti in Action Area III and near Akankha Crossing in Action Area II.
“This is a beautiful public space. Let us do our bit to make our city more healthy, so let us start cycling, walking and using public transportation more often,” said Venugopal A.V, deputy manager, Healthy Streets & Partnerships, at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), a global non-profit organisation. “Streets4People was a national challenge in which 100 cities were developing designs aided by consultants. New Town has been taking up a lot of initiatives for both Cycles4Change and Streets4People,” added the representative of ITDP, the knowledge partner of Smart Cities Mission, the urban renewal and retrofitting programme launched by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs. The Streets4People challenge was aimed “to inspire cities to create walking-friendly streets through quick measures, in response to Covid-19,” to quote the Smart Cities Mission website.
One of the two architects who had won the NKDA’s design contest launched to seek ideas for the pedestrian plaza, Malabi Makur, was present at the festival.