City to add 23 more miles of Open Streets to help New Yorkers maintain social distancing

(Photo by Todd Maisel)

By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Looking to help New Yorkers beat the heat while remaining socially distant, New York City is shutting down another 23 miles of roads across the city to cars this weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.

In late April, the mayor pledged to close off 100 miles of city streets to vehicular traffic to give New Yorkers space to run, walk or bicycle while adhering to social distancing rules lowering the chances of spreading the novel coronavirus. After Wednesday’s announcement, de Blasio will have closed off 66 miles of street space to cars so far.

De Blasio was initially skeptical of opening streets to only foot or bicycle traffic and scrapped a pilot program in late March after only 10 days arguing that the effort overused NYPD personnel. The mayor changed his tone a few days later when the City Council introduced a bill that would open up 75 miles of street space for recreational use.

During his June 24 press conference, de Blasio referred to the open streets initiative as something “very, very good” that came out of the coronavirus crisis.

“We have to find a way to make it work, it is working and it’s now a very big deal,” he added.

The Department of Transportation will work with Business Improvement Districts and precincts to open up streets around parks and in the middle of communities and create temporary protected bike lanes.  The city plans to connect the open streets with open restaurants with details to be announced over the next few days, de Blasio said.

The city parks that will see parks that will have streets closed off to car traffic include Henry Street near Red Hook Park, N. Elliot Place next to Commodore Barry Park, 35th Ave close to Crocheron Park, Forest Avenue by Captain Rivera Playground, 236th Street near Riverdale Playground as well as Shore Blvd. and Ditmas Blvd. next to Ralph DeMarch Park.

New protected bike lanes will be created in Central Queens and Central Park along with parts of Broadway, Northern Blvd., 61st St., 62nd St., and 5th Ave.  More protected bike lanes will pop up Harlem, Midtown, Lower Manhattan, and SoHo on 5th, 6th, and 7th Aves., Center St. and Lafayette St.

More open street space for pedestrians will be created in Ozone Park, Far Rockaway, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Ridgewood, Stapleton, Jamaica Hills, Sunset Park, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Bed Stuy.

De Blasio also announced on Wednesday that the city will open 950 and 250 sprinklers, spray showers, and misting stations to help keep New Yorkers cool this summer.

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