Upfront of Saturday’s rally to show thirty fourth Avenue into everlasting car-free house for park-starved Jackson Heights and Corona, Streetsblog is publishing this opinion piece collectively written by one of many key organizers of the thirty fourth Avenue open avenue and an city planner at present working for Ford’s Spin unit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put super stress on the infrastructure of New York Metropolis. At a time when social distancing is critical and open areas are essential to each psychological and bodily well being, the nation’s most densely populated metropolis may definitely be at a drawback.
Many neighborhoods throughout New York Metropolis undergo from an absence of open house and parks. However New Yorkers are resilient and artistic. There are “open areas” in entrance of each constructing throughout each borough. They might be paved with asphalt however the reimagination of town’s streets may be the reply to town’s want for extra viable public areas.
All throughout town, we now have seen how New Yorkers are able to undertake different makes use of of metropolis streets. NYC DOT rolled out Open Streets throughout town final spring. Those with neighborhood companions have been an unmitigated success. Not solely did they mobilize their residents in closing streets to vehicular site visitors and opening them up for pedestrians, micromobility, however in addition they created kids’s play areas, instituted out of doors programming together with Yoga, Pilates, Salsa, ESL lessons and artist areas.
Since mid-September, Spin and Streetlab have labored with those self same neighborhood companions to construct on their success. Road Lab & Spin have kicked it up a notch with their progressive programming together with PLAY NYC, drawing workshops and many others. and extra importantly sources that empowered these similar communities to strengthen their very own programming.
A whole bunch of residents have participated in Spin and Road Lab packages on thirty fourth Avenue from 93rd to 94th streets in Queens. Packages embody hands-free secure play exercise for kids, artwork labs and homework hubs for kids to soundly work together. This system has been so profitable that there’s a push from residents to make the set up everlasting.
Since COVID-19, vehicle site visitors has dropped wherever from 20 % to 50 %, relying on the borough. We’ve extra capability on metropolis streets and will use this time to re-invent these areas.
Proper now, our biggest challenges may also present our biggest alternatives. The dramatically diminished congestion on metropolis streets offers us with the prospect to create new makes use of for even a small share of the 6,000+ miles of paved street in New York.
Throughout different areas of town, we now have seen the opening of streets for elevated pedestrian site visitors and different non-automobile transportation in addition to the enlargement of “sidewalks” to allow out of doors consuming and retail. A research of sidewalks all through New York Metropolis reveals that our sidewalks are among the many most slender, making them much less secure for social distancing functions.
Micromobility choices have exploded on Open Streets – individuals are strolling, biking, rollerblading utilizing skateboards, and scooters in document numbers. In accordance with Quick Firm utilizing information from Strava bicycle site visitors has seen explosive progress throughout town with an astounding 1,220 % enhance on the thirty fourth Avenue Open Road. Give individuals a secure house for micromobility and they’re going to use it to get to highschool, to work and to play. They simply must really feel secure.
There will probably be a time once we dwell in a non-COVID world— however that doesn’t imply we now have to return to every thing from the previous. We will make our areas higher, extra equitable and safer. Open areas must be obtainable in each neighborhood and never simply those that have the means to dwell close to a serious park like Central Park or Prospect Park. For greater than a century, New York’s streets have been dominated by vehicles and have develop into an increasing number of crowded, harmful and inefficient as yearly has handed.
Let’s use this once-in-a-century societal shift to interrupt the cycle of congestion and discover new and higher methods to make New York’s streets safer and each extra, environment friendly, and equitable for the subsequent 100 years.
Jim Burke is a founding member of thirty fourth Avenue Open Streets Coalition, a board member of Ciclistas Latino Americanos of NY, and Chair of Queens Transportation Alternate options and the Queens Volunteer Committee. Kay Cheng is main Spin’s Coverage Initiatives Staff. She is a skilled City Planner and Designer and is a former worker of the New York Metropolis Planning Transportation Planning Division.
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.