Bike advocates and Cuomo look to de Blasio to open street space amid epidemic

Photo by Mark Hallum

Advocates for taking more cars off city streets to provide a safer and more open atmosphere are finding opportunities in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s demand that the de Blasio administration open streets to recreation.

During his daily update on the coronavirus on Sunday, Cuomo made a point of blasting younger New Yorkers for crowding city parks and disobeying guidelines on social distancing. The governor demanding Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson “get creative” and help resolve the public health liability of congestion.

Now, Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York are asking the city to step up to the plate and designate dozens of recommended streets for feet powered transit only.

“As we heard Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio say this weekend, New York City’s parks and sidewalks are filled with people trying to get some exercise and fresh air — so full that it is proving difficult to adhere to social distancing guidelines in some places,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said.

During his Monday briefing on COVID-19, in which he said the number of cases statewide have reached over 20,000, Cuomo reiterated that he had given the mayor and the speaker 24 hours to present a plan and get it approved by his administration.

“There is a wealth of street space in the five boroughs that could be converted into social distancing-friendly places for people, should the City require more hands to turn these proposals into a reality,” Harris continued. “New York City bicyclists stepped up in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and we know they will rise to the occasion again.”

As for the de Blasio’s plan moving forward, the mayor made no comment regarding this in his TV appearances on Monday apart from the statement that NYPD would be out in force breaking up large groups of people.

“We’ve got to give people a little time to make these adjustments. But what we’re going to do is, the NYPD will be out in force, reminding people, warning people, educating people,” de Blasio said. “Our officers know how to do this. Our officers have been telling people – and I like to say for generations, they’ve been telling people to move along, you know, break it up. They’re going to go out there and if they see crowds in the parks or anywhere else, they’re going to say, we’re not doing that anymore, it’s time to go home.”

The advocates are recommending that the city Department of Transportation consider the following roadways for new uses:

  • Zones around hospitals, with vehicular access only for emergency vehicles and hospital staff

  • The New York City Marathon route

  • Streets routinely closed for Summer Streets and the annual Car-Free Day

  • NYC Street Fair Routes (2020 calendar here)

  • Streets with robust block associations and histories of block parties

  • Streets typically closed as part of the Play Streets program

  • Streets in neighborhoods not within walking distance of a park (map here)

Streets without directly adjacent commercial or residential land uses were recommended as well, such as:

  • 73rd Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard within Cunningham Park

  • Forest Park Drive

  • 164th Street within Kissena Park

  • Shore Boulevard within Astoria Park 

  • Crotona Avenue and Claremont Avenue within Crotona Park 

  • Jackie Robinson Parkway

  • East Fordham Road between the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo

  • Mosholu Parkway in Van Cortlandt Park

  • Bay Street in Red Hook

  • Lorimer Street within McCarren Park

  • Margaret Corbin Drive within Fort Tryon Park 

  • Roadways within Latourette Park