New York, on the other hand, made its open-street program permanent last year after a handful of breakthrough successes, including 34th Avenue in Queens, Vanderbilt Avenue and Berry Street in Brooklyn, and Dyckman Street in Manhattan, a result of residents’ tireless efforts, community groups, businesses and advocates of transportation and open space. But many other open streets have struggled, have been reduced in size or completely scratched.
A popular Italian-style piazza on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx went from three blocks in 2020 to one block in May, freeing up 90 curbside parking spaces. “People drive up to us,” said Peter Madonia, the president of the Belmont Business Improvement District, which is trying to balance the open street with the needs of businesses and customers. “We still have a square, it’s just smaller.”
In Jackson Heights, Queens and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the open streets have received a backlash from some residents who say they make it harder to drive, find parking and get deliveries. They are also creating a stalemate in surrounding streets, residents say. Greenpoint drivers essentially took back two open streets on Driggs Avenue and Russell Street after metal barriers were smashed, run over and dumped into Newtown Creek.
“The more open streets there are, the harder it is for drivers to navigate,” said Councilor David I. Weprin, a Queens Democrat who has received complaints about the program. “There are still parts of New York City where people rely on their cars, and it’s getting more and more anti-car in the city.”
Others argue that with the rising number of road deaths, open streets make city navigation safer for pedestrians and cyclists. They can also provide health and environmental benefits, especially in poor neighborhoods with few parks.
“Cars remain king,” said Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that reported on the unequal distribution of open streets. “We need more open streets, not less, to support New Yorkers and our recovery.”