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Open Street Abandoned in New York

The New York Department of Transportation is changing the way it plans and manages open streets as political support for the concept wavers.
November 17, 2020, 5am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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New York City Department of Transportation
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"The [New York City] Department of Transportation has abruptly scuttled the Upper West Side’s only north-south open street," according to an article by Streetsblog New York City. The story about the nine-block stretch of West End Avenue between 87th and 96th streets is indicative of the city's recent retreat from car-free ambitions that gained political will and public momentum in the city during the pandemic.

According to the article, Upper West Side residents and organizations are being told by the NYCDOT that community groups will be necessary to "manage" and "enforce" new open streets.

Here's how the article describes the open street back in its heyday:

During the spring and early summer, when many Upper West Siders fleeing the city, the West End Avenue open street offered residents a quieter neighborhood, low traffic, a slower pace and, most important, a safe place to get outside at a proper distance. Some residents pulled out lawn chairs; others taught their kids to ride bikes. One doorman led the neighbors in nightly 7 p.m. “whoop” for essential workers.

That was before. In recent months, according to the article, the street started filling up with cars again—creating conflicts that have been materializing in New York City with greater frequency in recent weeks. The political power of car-centric use of public space has also been evident in the city's slow rollout of a bus priority program announced in June.

Based on the report, the decision to end the West End Avenue open street isn't the result of a push by the city to improve community buy-in, similar to steps taken to address equity in open streets planning during the pandemic in Oakland, California. In New York City, the political cause is traced to a specific "pro-parking, pro-driving agitator."

Full Story:
Published on Monday, November 16, 2020 in StreetsBlog NYC
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