Eyes on the Street: 78th Street, Jackson Heights, 8:15 PM

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The first 2010 installment of Summer Streets is tomorrow, and I can’t think of a better way to get in the mood than to check in on this inspiring grassroots victory for livable streets in New York City.

These are pictures Clarence took last Friday at the 78th Street Play Street in Jackson Heights. The play street started out as a car-free experiment on summer Sundays in 2008, giving kids and families some more space to play and socialize in one of New York’s most park-starved neighborhoods. As a candidate for City Council, Dan Dromm supported the play street, and in office he joined hundreds of constituents on a march to the local Community Board, helping to win a vote for making the street car-free seven days a week, all summer long.

This summer, the street has gradually gained popularity as a public space, and now it attracts up to 200 people at a time, according to Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. High school students who help supervise activities for younger kids throughout the week estimate that over the course of a busy day, several hundred people come over and enjoy the street.

"In the evenings you can have 100 people," said Stewart. "People are there well after eight." Even after the play equipment is put away, he said, people will linger on the benches, toddlers will play on the astroturf, and kids will ride bikes up and down the street.

Have a look at more of Clarence’s pictures after the jump. Wouldn’t it be great if kids had free reign on the street all year round, and traffic never invaded this space again?

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  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    My favorite conversation I overheard a few days ago as I was running thru the street to end up a run….

    Two kids near 34th Ave looking down the block with their mom:

    KID #1: My friend told me this street is open every day.
    KID #2: Really? We could ride bikes here every day?
    PASSERBY (before I could say something): Yup, no cars on 78th Street all summer!
    KIDS TOGETHER: Hooray!!

    OK, the “Hooray!” was nice, but what I really loved was the first kid who used the phrase “open” to describe a street closed to cars. Maybe we really are starting to turn the corner in NYC in a big way….

  • As co-sponsors of the 78th Street PlayStreet/Pedestrian Plaza, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and it’s Friends of Travers Park committee are working with the Jackson Heights Green Alliance to get the street permanently closed to traffic and opened to people next year. Eventualy we hope to see the park expanded into the street with the aim of creating a lawn area where locals can feel public grass beneath their feet.

    The plaza and ezpanded park are goals of our environmental sustainabiltiy project called the Green Agenda for Jackson Heights, which can be viewed at http://thegreenagenda.webs.com.

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