Jackson Heights Play Street Open Extra Month, Could Become Permanent

Jackson Heights’ 78th Street Play Street, a summertime street closure won in last year’s best feel-good story of grassroots activism, has been expanded from two months of car-free space to three this year. If all goes well in September, when the school year has started, some sort of year-round street closure should be in the works for the kids of Jackson Heights.

“We’re on track to reforming the way that whole piece of street works,” said Donovan Finn, a member of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. Both the Department of Transportation and City Council Member Daniel Dromm are “pretty solidly on board” with making some sort of big change in the next year or so should all go well this summer, Finn reported.

By extending the play street through September — last year, the block of 78th adjacent to Travers Park was closed 24/7 in July and August — neighborhood residents and city officials will be able to see how it works when school is in session. The private Garden School uses the street both to access its five-space parking garage and for loading and unloading school buses. “That’s actually the only use that faces the street,” said Finn.

DOT and Dromm specifically requested that the play street be extended into September in order to test out how the school would make a year-round closure work, whether full- or part-time.

We’ll see what happens in September, but so far the play street is again wildly popular in the open space-starved neighborhood. “Within 20 minutes of having it closed, there were kids out there running around,” said Finn. Once amenities like picnic tables, umbrellas, and astroturf are brought out, he said, residents will be able to use the new public space in even more ways.

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