City opens two more miles of open streets
by Benjamin Fang
May 13, 2020 | 644 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two more miles of streets have opened to pedestrians and cyclists starting on May 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week.

More than 1.5 miles of streets in three boroughs will be managed by business improvement districts (BIDs) as part of the city’s initiative to provide more space for social distancing.

“As the weather gets warmer, New Yorkers will need options to safely enjoy the sunshine, and we’re excited to give them even more options to do so,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We want New Yorkers to enjoy these streets and continue all best practices to stay safe from COVID-19.”

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will manage Willoughby Street between Pearl and Lawrence streets, as well as Lawrence Street from Fulton Street to Willoughby Street. The streets, making up 0.17 miles, will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

“The city’s economic recovery depends upon our streets being safely navigable for workers, residents and businesses,” said Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Safe Streets improves the ability of our retail, food and beverage, and small businesses to get back on their feet.”

The mayor also announced the return of Open Streets to 34th Avenue between 69th and 77th streets in Jackson Heights. That 0.4-mile corridor had been part of an initial open streets pilot program last month. The street is shut down from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Under Open Streets, no car traffic is permitted, with the exception of local deliveries, pick-ups and drop-offs, and necessary city vehicles. Those drivers are required to drive at 5 miles per hour.

“Creating open space for our community to travel from one place to another while facilitating social distancing is crucial to flattening the curve,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, “and ensuring our city can recover sooner than later.”

However, not all residents are happy with the de Blasio administration’s initiative. Shekar Krishnan of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance penned a letter to the mayor on May 5 in response to the Open Streets program.

In the letter, Krishnan notes that Jackson Heights ranks as one of the worst neighborhoods in the city when it comes to public open space. He said the initiative is “completely unacceptable” to the community because it doesn’t do enough.

“Nine blocks of closed streets for a neighborhood at the epicenter of this crisis shows an utter lack of empathy for what our community is experiencing right now. It is shockingly inadequate,” he wrote. “And it raises serious questions about this administration’s commitment to this program, its intentions behind implementing it, and which parts of the city it has designed this initiative for.”

The alliance demanded that City Hall rescind the proposal and instead implement its own plan, which includes creating a series of four pedestrian-priority, shared street “superblocks” in Jackson Heights. Krishnan argued in the letter that the plan would minimize the potential for pedestrian-vehicular interactions and maximize the utility of the Open Streets initiative.

Though the group recognizes how ambitious their proposal is, Krishnan wrote that with the coronavirus’ impact on the neighborhood, now is the time for bold and decisive action.

“Only these kinds of ambitious approaches will be effective in slowing the devastation that this pandemic has caused in intensely crowded neighborhoods such as ours,” he said, “by vastly increasing the possibility of safe social distancing.”
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