New York Open Streets Shrinking Dramatically

As city funding runs out, the number of miles in open streets projects has dwindled from 83 to just 20.

1 minute read

March 14, 2024, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Man with red bicycle walks bike down 'open street' with vendor booths in New York City.

Open Streets event on Tompkins Street, New York City. | NYC DOT / Tompkins Avenue

Two high-profile New York City open streets will end or cut back their programming, potentially signaling a decline in the pandemic-era project, reports Kim Velsey in Curbed.

Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue Open Street won’t be returning this year, and Vanderbilt Avenue will cut back its season and hours. According to Velsey, this is in part because “the city left it up to local groups to pay for and run a program it has long treated as a kind of block party, and four years in, the money has run out.”

Velsey adds, “Because this has been the model, wealthy areas that could raise funds ended up having more open streets than lower-income ones, which confused public-space improvements (which benefited pretty much anyone who wasn’t trying to drive through at that particular time) with gentrification.” By the time the program was two years old, the miles of open streets in the city dropped from 83 to 20.

Advocates say the city should fund the program in the same way that other cities around the world do. According to a DOT spokesperson, the city is spending $30 million in public spaces, including its Plaza Equity Program, which supports open streets efforts but which, according to the article, has been slow to pay out participating groups.

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