Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Car-Free Streets

Open Storefronts! Mayor Expands Open Streets Program for Retailers (Sort Of!)

10:37 AM EDT on October 28, 2020

Mayor de Blasio announced on Wednesday an expansion of his popular open restaurants program to include retail stores, that have been so decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic — though retailers can not set up in the curbside spaces as restaurants can.

Promising a streamlined application process, Hizzoner said retailers would be able to hawk their wares on the sidewalk to boost sales, which will be so critical as the holiday season arrives. Retailers whose shops are on existing open streets or open restaurant streets can operate in roadway spaces.

"It's inspired by open streets, but it's different than open streets; [it's] focused on sidewalks," he said.

The mayor had been under pressure from such civic groups as City Rise, and local business improvement district leaders, who have been calling for repurposing roadways for retail, so this is a partial victory for such groups.

The plan does not go as far as advocates wanted, not allowing retailers to use curbside spaces. Photo: DOT
The plan does not go as far as advocates wanted, not allowing retailers to use curbside spaces. Photo: DOT
The plan does not go as far as advocates wanted, not allowing retailers to use curbside spaces. Photo: DOT

Roughly 70 percent of a retailer's income comes from this period of the year, said Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris, whose agency is sending out 220,000 emails to business owners today.

The move also comes as Mayor de Blasio has urged New Yorkers not to travel during the holiday season.

"Please buy local," he said.

The program does nothing to support street vendors, as their advocates quickly pointed out:

Under questioning from reporters, the mayor said the goal is to maximize retail space, but also to keep people safe by allowing them to shop in the open air, which has proven to be safer against the virus than being indoors.

Doris said businesses could use collapsable umbrellas and tents, all of which would have to be taken off the street by the end of the day. Businesses must allow eight feet of space to allow for unimpeded passage of pedestrians.

Another reporter asked about the alleged difficulty drivers are having finding parking, but de Blasio dismissed the question because roadways themselves will not be available to retailers.

"Businesses will be utilizing only the space at their stores," Doris added. DOT Deputy Commissioner Margaret Forgione said "there will be no impact in the roadway," and said the onus will be on business owners to make sure "pedestrians can keep moving" (evidence that this program is intentionally privileging drivers over pedestrians).

Details were provided on the Department of Transportation website. Businesses can apply here.

mayor signs order
The mayor signs the executive order.
The mayor signs the executive order.

This is a breaking story. Check back later.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Congestion Pricing Opponents Are Blocking Disabled Access to Mass Transit, Politicians Charge

Just as the MTA begins speeding up new elevator construction, congestion pricing opponents are poised to stop it.

February 23, 2024

Legislation Introduced in Georgia to Fight Temporary License Plate Fraud

The bill is the most significant effort yet to stop the flow of fraudulent paper tags from Georgia car dealerships to New York City streets.

February 23, 2024

Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

February 23, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: More Lunch Consumption Edition

Streetfilms goes to Paris. Plus more news.

February 23, 2024

Advocates Slam Albany Pols for Using Transit Fund to Encourage Driving

Gov. Hochul and state legislators in Albany are spending a congestion pricing-adjacent fund on toll rebates for drivers and showing zero interest in bus or rail, transit advocates charged.

February 23, 2024
See all posts