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Mayor Cuts and Expands His ‘Open Streets’ Program

12:55 PM EDT on July 24, 2020

Police have done such an inconsistent job of maintaining open streets that residents, like these on Avenue B, have started doing the work themselves.

The mayor giveth and the mayor taketh away.

Mayor de Blasio on Friday created roughly three new miles of car-free streets — but then converted almost three miles of existing open streets back to use by automobile drivers.

Starting now, the following 2.77 miles of streets are no longer part of the "open streets" program:

    • The Bronx
      • Louis Nine Blvd. between Intervale Ave. and Southern Blvd. (.13 miles)
    • Brooklyn
      • Prospect Park West between Garfield Pl. and Third St. (.15 miles)
      • Parkside Ave. between Park Circle and Ocean Ave. (.56 miles) [Editor's note: This one was rarely set up by local cops anyway.]
      • East Seventh St. between Caton and Ditmas aves. (.78 miles) [See above editor's note]
    • Manhattan
      • E. 29th St. between Broadway and Madison Ave. (.19 miles)
      • W. 51st between Ninth and 10th aves. (.16 miles)
    • Queens
      • Fifth St. between 46th and 49th ave. (.28 miles) [Editor's note: No one was setting this one up anyway.]
      • Center Blvd. between 57th and Borden aves. (.23 miles)
      • 27 St. between 43rd Ave. and Queens Plaza North (.16 miles)
      • 85 St. between 25th and 30th aves. (.13 miles)

The total removal of open streets adds up to 2.77 miles. The city said it was "removing some underused locations in coordination with local elected officials and community partners," though it provided no details.

To compensate, the mayor has added the following streets to the program:

    • The Bronx
      • 169th St. between Third and Webster aves. (.19 miles)*
    • Brooklyn
      • Wolcott St. between Conover and Van Brunt St. (.09 miles)
      • Jefferson Ave between Patchen Ave. and Malcolm X Blvd. (.15 miles)
    • Manhattan
      • Thompson Street between W. Third St. and Washington Sq South (.05 miles next to a park)
      • Broome St. between Allen and Ludlow sts. (.06 miles)
      • Jane St. between Hudson St. and Eighth Ave. (.o7 miles)*
      • E. 90th St. between Fifth and Madison aves. (.1 miles)*
    • Queens
      • 31st Ave. between 31st and 36th sts. (.25 miles)
      • Dutch Kills between Jackson Ave. and the Sunnyside Yards (.09 miles)
      • 47th St. between 39th and Skillman aves. (.19 miles)
      • 49th St between 39th and Skillman aves. (.19 miles)
    • Staten Island
      • Wright St. between Canal and Thompson sts. (.04 miles)
      • Henderson Ave. between Broadway and Alaska St. (.16 miles)*
      • New St. between Cottage Pl. and Jewett Ave. (.09 miles).*

The total of the new open streets is 2.83 miles. Some of the space will be overseen by local precincts (denoted with asterisk above).

In addition, the mayor said the city will work with outside partners, such as the Fresh Air Fund, to create about a dozen short "play streets" where kids can "participate in independent crafting and art projects that include making kaleidoscopes, birdhouses, rhythm drums, and cloud climbers." The city also said some streets will have "giant board games such as Connect 4 and Jenga." There will also be "basketball, frisbee, softball, Wiffle ball, kickball, and laser tag."

Street Lab, a nonprofit that programs public space, is providing "160 custom benches, and a new no-touch obstacle course called PLAY NYC," City Hall said. "All programming is creatively designed to meet social distancing guidelines."

Here is a list of play streets and their hours, through Sept. 4:

    • The Bronx
      • Oak Tree Pl. between Hughes Ave. and Quarry Rd. (M-Th, 10-4)
      • Cromwell Ave. between McClellan St. and Jerome Ave. (M-Th, 10-4)
    • Brooklyn
      • Sixth Ave. between 44th and 45th sts. (M-Th, 10-4)
      • Park Pl. between New York and Kingston aves. (M-Th, 10-4)
      • Blake Ave. between Powell St. and Mother Gaston Blvd. (M-Th, noon-5)
      • Humboldt St. between Moore and Varet sts. (M-Th, noon-5)
    • Manhattan
      • W. 150th St. between St. Nicholas Pl. and Edgecombe Ave. (M-Th, 10-4)
      • W. 129th St. between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass blvds. (M-Th, noon-5)
    • Queens
      • 34th Ave. between 72nd and 74th sts.; between 79th and 80th sts.; and between 92nd and 94th sts. (M-Th, 10-4)
    • Staten Island
      • Wright St. between Canal and Thompson sts. (noon-4, Fridays only)

The new open space — some of which is on existing open streets — comes two days after Transportation Alternatives criticized the mayor's open streets program as lacking "vision and ambition." The program is still dozens of miles away from meeting the mayor's April pledge to open up 100 miles of roadway for socially responsible recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the existing 70 miles or so of open streets, about eight miles are temporary protected bike lanes (which are not always protected).

On Friday, Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrufo said the mayor is missing the forest of improvements he could be making for the very short trees.

"At this stage in the city's reopening, it would be wise of the mayor to focus on solving real problems facing New Yorkers," Cutrufo said. "In order to do that, he needs to prioritize busways and bikeways. He's replacing pocket parks with more pocket parks, at a time when he should be replacing traffic sewers with multimodal corridors that can move lots of people in a way that promotes fresh air and physical distancing."

Update: After initial publication of this story, the DOT sent over a slightly different list of roadways that had been eliminated from the program.

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