NYC Open Streets advocates say human and financial resources needed

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An Open Street at 120th Street and Lenox in Harlem.
Photo by Mark Hallum

The Open Street Coalition is asking for cooperation from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, once again, in improving the program managed widely by volunteers and is demanding efforts to strengthen the long-term efficacy making roadways available to more than just cars.

The group, which includes Transportation Alternatives, is asking for the administration to advise as to what kind of funding will be made available for maintenance, providing municipal employees to aid in the management of open streets, and partnership with high schools and workforce development organizations.

“We hope you take the following suggestions and feedback to heart and work with the local organizers who understand the ins and outs of how to make this program come to life,” the letter stated. “We are only writing today because we care so much about the future of this program, have seen how much it can positively impact New Yorkers, and want to partner with your administration to bring this program to the next level.”

According to the group wooden barriers put in place by NYPD or the metal barricades do not cut it as opponents to open streets have been known to use, ironically, bike locks to prevent them from being placed at intersections by volunteers.

The Open Streets Coalition recommends the city install permanent bump-outs at intersections to for traffic calming, shortened crosswalks and mid-block dead ends.

The full letter, which can be found on Transportation Alternatives’ Medium page, follows up to an earlier call for more resources directed to the Open Streets programs on March 22, appealing to the mayor for the sake of the respiratory health of communities as well as street safety after 2020 proved to be nearly as deadly for cyclists in particular as it was for pedestrians.

By March 25, the mayor’s office had an online portal for communities to apply to dedicate communities to open streets for outdoor dining and programming, while maintaining loading, deliveries and emergency access.

“Last year, New York City seized an unprecedented crisis to totally reimagine our city streets. Open Streets was a runaway success – and now, I’m proud to deliver the framework we need to make it permanent,” said de Blasio. “With better signage, new barriers, and more support for community partners, this program will be sustainable for the long term – and better position New York City to break free of car culture and build a recovery for all of us.”

City Hall said it would review the letter.