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Permanent ‘Open Boulevards’ coming this summer

Several streets throughout the five boroughs will be permanently transformed into pedestrian and bike-friendly “Open Boulevards” starting this summer, dramatically expanding the limited street closures that currently exist.
“In a year of dramatic changes to our urban landscape, Open Boulevards will transform New York City’s streets like never before,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The recovery for all of us will come to life on these streets, where small businesses, restaurants, artists, pedestrians, and cyclists will gather to create the kind of destination you can only find in the greatest city in the world.”
Permanent Open Boulevards will be established on stretches of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and Sunset Park, as well as Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, all of which are already occasionally closed to traffic under the current Open Streets program.
Additionally, a portion of 21st Street in Greenwood will be designated as a permanent Bike Boulevard.
The Open Boulevards program will expand upon the current provisions made for Open Streets by adding more permanent signage, landscaping, and advertising. The streets will be closed to traffic to allow for outdoor dining, performance space, and pedestrian access.
The Open Streets program has been subject to criticism from some business owners who feel the job of placing and removing barricades has unfairly become their responsibility.
Additionally, some Brooklynites bitterly opposed the Open Streets program outright. In Greenpoint, a feud over Open Streets culminated when multiple street barricades were mysteriously stolen and thrown into Newtown Creek

Residents protest plans for permanent street closure

More than 50 Jackson Heights residents marched along 34th Avenue on Saturday to voice their opposition to the city’s latest push to turn a 1.3-mile stretch of the busy neighborhood thoroughfare into a permanent park.
“Who are we?” organizer Paolo Peguero asked the crowd as they gathered with placards of protest ready to take to the avenue. “Residents,” they shouted back. “What do we want?” she continued. “Compromise,” they cheered in unity.
Currently, 26 blocks of 34th Avenue from 69th Street to Junction Boulevard is closed to traffic each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, with the exception of emergency vehicles and local traffic.
The stretch is part of the city’s Open Streets Initiative, which created 83 miles of recreational space where residents could safely bike, walk and play during the pandemic.
The program, which was originally set to end last October, was extended indefinitely. Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation making the makeshift parks permanent.
Open Streets advocates now want to lengthen the stretch in Jackson Heights and turn it into a 24/7 expanse.
“We want to inform other residents about what is going on in our neighborhood because many don’t realize what’s happening,” said Peguero, leader of 34th Avenue Open Streets Compromise, a group of residents who say their concerns have gone unheard.
“We’ve tried for months to express how we feel to the Open Streets Coalition and the DOT,” Peguero added, noting she has already collected around 1,200 signatures from residents who are opposed to the plan.
Peguero said she and others are willing to compromise, despite how they’ve been portrayed on social media sites such as Streetsblog.org – a website that advocates for reducing the city’s dependence on cars – which claims the group is “anti-Open Streets.”
“Perhaps we can have certain days or do studies to see when people use the area the most,” Peguero suggested. “We just want to be part of the process.”
A lack of vehicle access, fewer parking spots and a decrease in quality of life were among the complaints of marchers.
“I’ve lived here for 47 years and I’ve never been through anything like this,” said Louise Ross. “The noise never ends, vendors, many who don’t have permits, are crowding the streets and boom boxes are screaming into the night. This is being shoved down our throats and we were never asked about it.”
Ross said she also worries about the elderly and disabled who need services like Access-A-Ride, which provides door-to-door transportation for those with health conditions.
“Emergency vehicles can’t get down here without stopping, getting out and moving the metal barriers,” she continued. “And what about people with cars with no space to park, what are they supposed to do? Fold them up and put them in their pockets?”
Darren Allicock, who has lived in Jackson Heights for more than 15 years, said he worries the neighborhood changes are going to displace longtime residents.
“Why the focus on Jackson Heights now?” he asked. “All of a sudden there’s an influx of money. Are they trying to attract people from Manhattan and gentrify this neighborhood? It’s always been a diverse place and now it’s just one-sided.”
What’s more, Allicock said the park is attracting picnickers who leave their trash along the avenue and fail to pick up after their dogs.
“Our building staff winds up cleaning up,” he said. “There are no rules as it is now.”

Residents protest plans for permanent street closure

More than 50 Jackson Heights residents marched along 34th Avenue on Saturday to voice their opposition to the city’s latest push to turn a 1.3-mile stretch of the busy neighborhood thoroughfare into a permanent park.
“Who are we?” organizer Paolo Peguero asked the crowd as they gathered with placards of protest ready to take to the avenue. “Residents,” they shouted back. “What do we want?” she continued. “Compromise,” they cheered in unity.
Currently, 26 blocks of 34th Avenue from 69th Street to Junction Boulevard is closed to traffic each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, with the exception of emergency vehicles and local traffic.
The stretch is part of the city’s Open Streets Initiative, which created 83 miles of recreational space where residents could safely bike, walk and play during the pandemic.
The program, which was originally set to end last October, was extended indefinitely. Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation making the makeshift parks permanent.
Open Streets advocates now want to lengthen the stretch in Jackson Heights and turn it into a 24/7 expanse.
“We want to inform other residents about what is going on in our neighborhood because many don’t realize what’s happening,” said Peguero, leader of 34th Avenue Open Streets Compromise, a group of residents who say their concerns have gone unheard.
“We’ve tried for months to express how we feel to the Open Streets Coalition and the DOT,” Peguero added, noting she has already collected around 1,200 signatures from residents who are opposed to the plan.
Peguero said she and others are willing to compromise, despite how they’ve been portrayed on social media sites such as Streetsblog.org – a website that advocates for reducing the city’s dependence on cars – which claims thegroup is “anti-Open Streets.”
“Perhaps we can have certain days or do studies to see when people use the area the most,” Peguero suggested. “We just want to be part of the process.”
A lack of vehicle access, fewer parking spots and a decrease in quality of life were among the complaints of marchers.
“I’ve lived here for 47 years and I’ve never been through anything like this,” said Louise Ross. “The noise never ends, vendors, many who don’t have permits, are crowding the streets and boom boxes are screaming into the night. This is being shoved down our throats and we were never asked about it.”
Ross said she also worries about the elderly and disabled who need services like Access-A-Ride, which provides door-to-door transportation for those with health conditions.
“Emergency vehicles can’t get down here without stopping, getting out and moving the metal barriers,” she continued. “And what about people with cars with no space to park, what are they supposed to do? Fold them up and put them in their pockets?”
Darren Allicock, who has lived in Jackson Heights for more than 15 years, said he worries the neighborhood changes are going to displace longtime residents.
“Why the focus on Jackson Heights now?” he asked. “All of a sudden there’s an influx of money. Are they trying to attract people from Manhattan and gentrify this neighborhood? It’s always been a diverse place and now it’s just one-sided.”
What’s more, Allicock said the park is attracting picnickers who leave their trash along the avenue and fail to pick up after their dogs.
“Our building staff winds up cleaning up,” he said. “There are no rules as it is now.”

City announces Open Boulevards program

A new city program will expand 10 multi-block corridors to create dining destination experiences throughout the city.
“Open Boulevards” builds off last year’s successful “Open Streets: Restaurants” program, which transformed miles of restaurant-heavy streets into open space for diners, cyclists, and pedestrians.
In addition to creating extra space for dining, Open Boulevards will feature cultural activities, community-based programming, landscaping and other beautification, and art installations.
“As a Brooklynite, I know that Open Streets like Vanderbilt Avenue have already illustrated how this city can thrive in this recovery,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman. “Open Boulevards will give us a chance to further expand those success stories, driving even more business to vibrant communities and of course, great dining.”
“We’re pleased to support the new ‘Open Boulevards’ plan that will not only expand the City’s café culture across the five boroughs, but also add new arts, culture and community elements that will help boost New York City’s reawakening and attract visitors this summer and beyond,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO at NYC & Company.
The City will mark Open Boulevards with branded light pole banners and gateways at entrances and public tables and chairs. Restaurants on Open Boulevards will receive free barriers to ensure safety for roadway diners and pedestrians.
In Queens, the program will include Ditmars Boulevard from 33rd to 36th streets and Woodside Avenue from 76th to 78th street.
In Brooklyn, Open Boulevard will include Vanderbilt Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Park Place, and Fifth Avenue from Dean Street to Park Place, Sterling Place to Berkeley Place, President Street to 3rd Street, and 10th Street to 13th Street in Park Slope, and Fifth Avenue from 39th Street to 41st Street, 45th Street to 47th Street, and 55th Street to 59th Street in Sunset Park.
More information, including days, hours, and operating partners, can be found at nyc.gov/openboulevards.
“The Open Streets program offers much needed recreational space to Queens residents looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors and experience the vibrancy of our neighborhoods,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “The Open Boulevards program is a natural expansion of Open Streets and is a great way to make these destinations even more attractive.”

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