NO TRICK, ALL TREAT: City to Ban Cars on Some Streets for Halloween 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards tries to quiet the hecklers on the 34th Avenue open street on Monday. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards tries to quiet the hecklers on the 34th Avenue open street on Monday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

This is spook-tacular!

On the deadliest day of the year for kids nationwide, the city will ban traffic on 100 streets on Halloween, a plan that will touch on all boroughs except Staten Island, the Department of Transportation announced on Monday morning.

A woman screams at Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. Photo: Julianne Cuba
A woman screams at Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. Photo: Julianne Cuba

To combat a rise in traffic violence and give all of the little ghosts, superheroes, and spotted lantern flies the freedom to trick-or-treat this year without fear of getting hit by a reckless driver, the city will expand the hours of its existing open streets from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and create pedestrian zones in even more areas as part of a first-ever initiative called Trick-or-Streets — a move that further riled the perpetually aggrieved car-owning minority.

“I am incredibly excited to build on the triumph of our thriving Open Streets program … this Halloween, providing greater access to safer, shared community spaces,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.

The announcement coincided with the ribbon cutting to mark the latest stage in the construction of Paseo Park — the built out version of what the city has declared the gold standard open street on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights. The celebration, nonetheless, attracted a small number of car zealots who consistently berated Rodriguez and other officials — even when one local Assembly member evoked the many children who had previously been killed by drivers in the area and whose lives might have been saved had they lived on a car-free street.

“Excuse me, we are speaking about dead children, can you just hold on for 30 seconds,” said Assembly Member Catalina Cruz said as she tried to get a word in edgewise about the well-documented safety benefits of car-free streets. “You don’t care about dead children is what you’re saying?”

The 34th Avenue open street has contributed to a dramatic nearly 42-percent drop in crashes causing pedestrian injuries, according to DOT.

“This is what we deal with, people just don’t care,” added Cruz, who was joined by the neighborhood’s current Council Member Shekar Krishnan and former Council Member Daniel Dromm, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, all of whom were screamed at by a handful of residents.

Across the country, Halloween is a literal nightmare for some families. Between 2004 and 2018, 54 kids under the age of 18 were hit and killed in traffic violence, 36 more than the average day, the Washington Post reported in 2019.

The city bucks the national trend for the increase in fatalities, but not necessarily crashes. Last year on Halloween, which was a Sunday, for example, there were 362 total reported crashes, leaving 129 people injured, according to city data — more collisions than any other Sunday for at least two months.

Banning cars on streets on a day when kids rule them was a no-brainer, parents and advocates said.

The city will extend the hours of roughly 40 currently in-operation open streets on Halloween that otherwise would have re-opened to traffic earlier, and ensure that another 60 remain entirely car-free through 8 p.m., including on 18 streets in Brooklyn, 42 in Manhattan, five in Queens and two in the Bronx.

In addition, DOT is also partnering with the city’s Street Activity Permit Office to pedestrianize even more streets in every borough (again, minus Staten Island) through 8 p.m. Of those, 10 will be in Brooklyn, 10 in Manhattan, three in Queens, and one in the Bronx.

Here is a map of the streets (click here for the DOT’s interactive version):


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