Saturday, September 18, 2021
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Open Streets: NYC DOT Thanks Open Streets Community Partners
Nation-leading program dedicating roadway space for recreation, outdoor dining, learning, and cultural programming now a permanent part of NYC’s urban landscape
New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman joined Open Streets community partners and elected officials on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn today to thank them for their work on the nation-leading program that transforms roadway into additional open space for recreation, outdoor dining, learning, and other programming. The celebration continues Sunday on Amsterdam Avenue at 109th Street in Manhattan.
Entertainment at Saturday’s event includes performances by Quintessential Playlist, Hazmat Modine and the Stoop Kidz Brass Band. Programming for Sunday’s event will include Marching Cobras, Peggy Robles Alverado, Legacy Women and LaChanze. The Open Boulevards Performance series is part of NYCDOT’s Public Space Activations program that brings free programming that is open and accessible to New Yorkers of all ages and abilities to public spaces throughout the city. The Activations Program will continue programing a variety of public spaces throughout the fall.
“Open streets were an innovation borne of necessity to provide our friends and neighbors a safe way to enjoy open spaces during the pandemic,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. “New Yorkers flocked to them, paving the way for us to make them a permanent fixture of our cityscape. I would like to thank Council Member Carlina Rivera, all our wonderful volunteers, the dedicated DOT staff, and of course the people that embraced our Open Streets for making this innovative program a wild success.”
Open Streets began as an emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis in May of 2020, when Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson named the first streets to be used for social distancing among pedestrians and cyclists.
In May of 2021, at a ceremony with Council Speaker Johnson and Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Carlina Rivera, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation creating a permanent program where Open Streets are either managed directly by NYC DOT or by working with community partners. That same month, during Streets Week!, the Administration also introduced Open Boulevards, a program to enhance and expand 10 multi-block corridors to create dining destination experiences throughout the city. Open Boulevards feature cultural activities, community-based programming, landscaping and art installations.
This year Mayor de Blasio announced $4 million in support of Open Streets through the NYC Cleanup Corps Program. Announced in the Mayor’s Recovery For All of Us plan, the CCC will employ 10,000 New Yorkers to wipe away graffiti, power wash sidewalks, tend to community gardens, beautify public spaces, and work with community organizations to clean their neighborhoods. Through its contract with The Horticultural Society of New York, DOT employs maintenance teams, horticultural workers, and public space ambassadors to support over sixty public spaces across the city including 28 Open Streets.
“When I first introduced legislation to launch an emergency Open Streets program at the height of the pandemic, it was clear that New Yorkers needed more space for socially-distanced recreation,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “Now, a year and a half later, we all know the important role that effort played in communities citywide. Through the dedicated collaboration of so many community partners, Open Streets has enabled outdoor learning, helped local businesses thrive, inspired entrepreneurs, allowed artists to share their talents, and connected us to our neighbors. I thank Commissioner Gutman for his continued partnership and support of this groundbreaking program.”
"It’s been such a joy to see New Yorkers enjoying fresh air, recreation, and entertainment during the Open Streets weekends," said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. "This is an important step toward distributing public street space more equitably, while making public health the priority. Expanding this transformative urban program to include community-level involvement and the Horticultural Society, along with the team from DOT, adds significant quality of life for the City’s residents. Thanks to DOT, all the volunteers and participants, and everyone involved."
“Open Streets have been a literal lifeline for New Yorkers during the pandemic, and have opened the eyes of people across the five boroughs to how vital our streets can be without cars,” said Eric McClure, Executive Director of StreetsPAC. “They’re a model for how we can rethink the future of New York City’s public spaces."
“The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many facets of everyday life. The Open Streets Program is an example of how major challenges can create amazing opportunity,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Vice President, Regional Plan Association. “The transformation of our streets, as recommended in our Fourth Regional Plan, has provided myriad benefits for communities and can provide lasting change for the future.”
“Since the start of the pandemic, New Yorkers have relied on Open Streets to recreate and safely connect with their neighbors,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We’re thrilled to see that the New York City Department of Transportation is celebrating Open Streets this weekend, recognizing the community partners and elected officials that have been instrumental in expanding the program across the city. We look forward to a continued commitment to Open Streets, which are essential to improving air quality and reprioritizing our street space.”
“Open Streets is the most ambitious collaboration between communities and a City agency that I can recall in more than two decades of organizing in Brooklyn,” said Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “More than one hundred people have volunteered to help operate our programs on Vanderbilt Avenue and Underhill Avenue, a testament to how powerfully the opportunity to transform our streets has resonated in our community.”
“Organizing a volunteer crew on Avenue B’s Open Street has been a singular experience and an amazing way to bring our community together during and beyond the pandemic and keep cyclists and pedestrians safer,” said Sophie Maerowitz, Co-Founder, Loisaida Open Streets Community Coalition. “From ‘build days’ repairing broken barricade legs to Zumba, performances and live murals, our volunteers, program organizers and neighbors have shown that Avenue B can be a safe gathering and recreational space and true gift to the Loisaida community.”
A full list of Open Streets can be found at www.nyc.gov/openstreets.