Groups call for expansion of Open Streets initiative
by Benjamin Fang
May 27, 2020 | 1013 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since launching its Open Streets initiative last month, New York City has opened up 43 miles of streets to pedestrians and cyclists.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 13 more miles would be included in the program, including nine miles managed by local police precincts, nearly two miles overseen by community organizations and another three miles near parks.

In Brooklyn, the Red Hook Initiative will manage a portion of 9th Street, while the Bedford Stuyvesant Gateway BID will oversee a part of Arlington Place. Precincts in Williamsburg, Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Crown Heights and Brooklyn Heights will also supervise open streets.

The streets adjacent to McGolrick Park, Betsy Head Park and Nicholas Naquan Heyward Park are now closed off to car traffic.

In Queens, neighborhoods like Rego Park, Sunnyside, Forest Hills, Maspeth and Jamaica will see pedestrianized streets. Several Queens green spaces, such as Baisley Pond Park, Yellowstone Playground and Gorman Playground are open as well.

“New Yorkers deserve space to safely enjoy the outdoors in their own neighborhoods,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Thanks to hard work from a host of city agencies, we’ve beaten our Open Streets goal for this month, and made our city a national leader in expanding public space as we fight COVID-19.”

Last month, the mayor and Speaker Corey Johnson announced 40 miles of open space by the end of May, with a plan to reach 100 miles in the coming months.

Johnson said in a statement that the open streets are “making a real difference in the lives of New Yorkers right now.”

“It’s clear we need to continue expanding this program,” he said, “and that we should consider this initiative a key part of reimagining how we use our public streets during and after the crisis.”

However, a coalition of small businesses, advocacy groups and environmental advocates is urging the mayor to expand the size and scope of the program.

In an open letter to de Blasio, the coalition wrote that car-filled streets, crowded sidewalks and packed subways pose a public health risk and will impede the city’s recovery from COVID-19.

The groups asserted that closing streets to cars will not only reduce traffic crashes and injuries, but will also reduce pollution and congestion and increase economic activity.

“The Open Streets plan you initiated is commendable. We urge you to think bigger,” the letter reads. “New York City needs Open Streets that serve more purposes and more people.”

The expansion of open streets will improve business opportunities, equity, resiliency, transportation alternatives and physical and mental health, they argued.

“Right now, you have the opportunity to prepare our city for a near-future of recurrent outbreaks and seed the ground of New York’s long-term recovery by expanding the scope of Open Streets,” the coalition wrote. “We call on you to think big and take necessary action on this transformative idea now.”

Among the groups in the coalition is the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. Regina Myer, president of the organization, said in a statement that now is the time for New York to put a comprehensive street closure plan into place.

“New York has a long road ahead before life even approaches a return to normal,” she said, “but it is clear that we must increase safe access to the most obvious public space: our streets.

“It won’t just make the city far more pleasant for the vast majority of New Yorkers,” Myer added. “It will also help save lives.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides also joined the call for a holistic open streets system for the borough.

He proposed closing streets to cars around public parks and waterfronts, identifying 10 miles of commercial corridors to create “European-style” sidewalk cafe space, creating 20 miles of protected bike lanes, and implementing busways.

“Queens residents deserve open streets so they may get fresh air and get back to work while keeping a safe distance from others” he said. “But this needs to be a holistic plan that allows people to connect from one neighborhood to another as well as get restaurants back open.”
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