It’s Past Time to Make Summer Streets Even Greater

New Yorkers enjoying Summer Streets last Saturday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
New Yorkers enjoying Summer Streets last Saturday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

When Summer Streets launched in 2008, it was accompanied by a veritable New York media firestorm. “Will Car-Free ‘Summer Streets’ Work?” asked the Times. “Businesses Brace for Summer Streets,” warned WNYC. Seven years on, New York’s marquee car-free event has become a popular August institution. It’s time for more.

Since its first edition, Summer Streets has encompassed nearly seven miles of car-free streets on three summer Saturdays, along Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. Summer Streets attracted more than 300,000 people last year, DOT said. Yet despite the program’s popularity, the city hasn’t expanded it.

Smaller “Weekend Walks” events have grown over the years, bringing car-free streets to neighborhoods in all five boroughs. But these pedestrian-focused events aren’t the same as Summer Streets, which is big enough to attract people from all over the city. Most important, Summer Streets covers a car-free route long enough to entice New Yorkers onto their bicycles.

There are hurdles to expanding Summer Streets, which already relies on corporate sponsorships. “It takes a lot of funds,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said last year. “We have to work closely with the NYPD. It’s a lot of work to close down the streets, and to their credit, they come to the table and help us with this just out of their own resources.”

If the city can overcome its cost hurdles, there are a few ways to expand Summer Streets. It could be extended to happen on more than just three Saturdays in August, it could last beyond 1 p.m., it could cover a longer route, or it could cover additional routes in boroughs other than Manhattan.

Los Angeles, for example, has expanded its CicLAvia open streets event to downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley, and Watts, among other neighborhoods, with car-free hours lasting well into the late afternoon.

Where — and how — would you expand Summer Streets in New York? Let us know in the comments.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Streetfilms: NYC Summer Streets 2009

|
This past Saturday, New York City DOT and partners kicked off the second year of Summer Streets, a six-hour car-free event stretching from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan estimated that twice as many people visited the route compared to the first Summer Streets event last year. If you missed this […]

Summer Streets Is Over. Long Live Summer Streets!

|
Powered by thousands of New Yorkers hungry for car-free public space and aided by three consecutive weeks of picture perfect weather, there can be little doubt that the Summer Streets experiment was by most measures a rousing success. Still, the New York Times reports that the city will "study the effect on businesses closely" before […]

Summer Streets #2: Wetter and Better?

|
Car-free workouts on Cleveland Place will be back tomorrow, but what about the open-toed pumps? The weather might add a new wrinkle to the second installment of Summer Streets: Forecasts call for a 40 percent chance of rain tomorrow. How might showers affect the day’s events? Will the largely positive press from last week counteract […]

Summer Streets 4, Part One

|
A few highlights from the fourth year of car-free summer Saturdays on Park Avenue and Lafayette Street, which, despite the threat of rain in the beginning, seemed just as popular as ever:

Eyes on the Street: First Weekend of Car-Free Summer Streets

|
A reader sends in these shots of weekend car-free street activity. Above, the crowd takes in a performance from the Fourth Arts Block "Meet the Street" series on East 4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue in Manhattan; below is a scene from the first Saturday of Williamsburg Walks, taken at North 6th and […]

Streetfilms: Summer Streets Are Back!

|
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this week the return and expansion of the Summer Streets program along with more than 1,500 free events taking place throughout New York City this summer. The mayor was joined by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who noted that some 50,000 people enjoyed Summer Streets each time it was held last year, […]