First round of NYC’s new Open Streets plan closes seven miles of roads near parks

Freedom Drive in Forest Park, Queens, will be one of the streets closed to vehicular traffic starting May 4, 2020 as part of the city’s new “Open Streets” program.
File photo by Robert Pozarycki

By Robert Pozarycki

On the first day of May, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the first round of streets to be closed to most vehicular traffic as part of a new-and-improved Open Streets social distancing initiative.

Most of the seven miles of city streets are located within or near public parks where activity has increased over the first few weeks of spring.

The aim of the initiative, which the City Council and de Blasio agreed upon earlier this week, provides additional space for parkgoers to walk, run, bike or exercise at a safe distance from each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

The roads will not be closed 24 hours a day. According to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the streets will only be shut for 12 hours each day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., beginning Monday, May 4.

During the Open Streets hours, through traffic will not be permitted, but local deliveries, pickups/drop-offs, city service vehicles and emergency vehicles may be granted access. Any driver on these roads may only proceed at 5 mph.

The streets will be blocked off barricades and signs placed by the Police and Fire Departments, according to city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. The DOT and other city agencies will assist the NYPD and FDNY in barricade placement.

“The Council is glad our efforts on this initiative have brought us this far, and wear eager to work with our colleagues in government, community groups and our neighbors to keep expanding this program in a safe, effective and enjoyable way,” Johnson said in a May 1 statement. “While we continue our fight against this awful virus, we need to give people the space they need to maintain proper social distancing, and I’m glad we’re making progress towards that goal.”

In March, the city launched a pilot Open Streets program, closing down a handful of roadways across the city for public use. The program came after Governor Andrew Cuomo chastised New Yorkers for continuing to congregate en masse in public parks as the coronavirus pandemic began to surge.

But just two weeks after implementing Open Streets, the Mayor’s office quickly shut it down, claiming that not enough people were using the open roads to justify the police presence required to keep them safe. Street safety advocates protested, and the City Council announced the introduction of legislation establishing an Open Streets program that would close up to 75 miles of streets.

Earlier this week, the Council and de Blasio announced an agreement to create between 40 and 100 miles of Open Streets in the five boroughs.

For his part, de Blasio on Friday said he was proud of his team “for jumping into action with this first group of open streets” under the new plan.

“Our parks have played a critical role in maintaining public health during this crisis,” de Blasio said. “But we cannot afford to have a high demand for open space [while creating] unhealthy situations. That’s why we’re opening streets and offering more options for New Yorkers to get outside safely.”

The roads in the first phase of the Open Streets plan are as follows:

  • Margaret Corbin Drive between Fort Washington Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard in Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan.
  • Freedom Drive between Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue in Forest Park, Queens.
  • Forest Park Drive between the Forest Park Golf Course parking lot and the Forest Park Bandshell parking lot in Queens.
  • Forest Park Drive between Metropolitan Avenue and the Overlook parking lot in Forest Park, Queens.
  • Silver Lake Park Road between Forest Avenue and Victory Boulevard in Silver Lake Park, Staten Island.
  • Sackman Place between Truxton Street and Fulton Street in Callahan-Kelly Park, Brooklyn.
  • Meadow Lake Drive between the Model Airplane Field and the Meadow Lake Bridge parking lot in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens.
  • Grant Avenue between 169th and 170th Streets in Grant Park, Bronx.
  • Reservoir Oval East/West near Bainbridge Avenue, adjacent to Williamsbridge Oval, Bronx.
  • Court Square West between Jackson Avenue and the dead end, near Court Square in Long Island City, Queens.
  • East End Avenue between East 83rd and East 89th Streets, adjacent to Carl Schurz Park in Manhattan.
  • Dyckman Street between Broadway and Seaman Avenue, adjacent to Lt. William Tighe Triangle in Manhattan.
  • Prospect Park West between 3rd Street and Garfield Place, adjacent to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
  • Parkside Avenue between Park Circle and Ocean Avenue, adjacent to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
  • Front Street between Canal and Edgewater Streets, adjacent to Stapleton Waterfront Park on Staten Island.
  • Laurel Hill Terrace near Amsterdam Avenue, adjacent to Highbridge Park in Manhattan.

The City Council also invites local organizations or community boards that wish to suggest a potential Open Street in their area to submit them by emailing [email protected], or by filling out a survey online.

With additional reporting by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech.

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