These Upper West Side Streets Are About To Open

With the weather warming up and a re-opening plan in place, many New Yorkers are looking forward to spending more time outside. There is now a plan in place to open some Upper West Side Streets as early as tomorrow.

The open streets plan will now include West End Avenue from 87th Street to 96th Street, and 75th Street between Broadway to Riverside Drive.

City Council representatives have pushed on the Mayor to open up the streets. In a statement from a Transportation Alternatives Executive Director, they state that, “Streets account for roughly 80 percent of New York City’s public space, and [this] ambitious open streets program will give 75 miles of streets back to people, their rightful owner, when New Yorkers desperately need them.”

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So what does this program look like? At the CB7 Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday night, the committee reviewed the guidelines and rules that would allow the streets to open. Not only will it require approval from the Department of Transportation and the NYPD, but it will also require a community sponsor to take on the responsibility of managing the closure of the street.

The guidelines for a proposing community sponsor to follow include the following:

  • The open street cannot be proposed on bus routes, truck routes, or hospital corridors.
  • The length and duration of the closure will be determined in partnership with NYCDOT.
  • Cross streets must remain open.
  • Sponsor must post and replenish signage mandating social distancing and slow vehicular travel speeds.
  • Sponsor must message hours, guidelines, etc to the community on a regular basis.

What has the city offered to do? Give the language for signage and other messaging, and provide barricades to block the streets where possible. However, they will offer no funding for this program.

CB7 transportation committee members were quick to point out how disappointed they are with these guidelines. Member Sara Lind said, “I just want to say, I think the DOT’s reliance on community partners is just really untenable. I think it always has been, but especially now when community partners are suffering as much as anyone else. I don’t know that there’s anything we can do about that right now, maybe a resolution asking [them] to try a different method for some of these enhancements. When we ask for safety improvements to the streets, they often want a community partner to maintain it, and that’s their job. They’re the Department of Transportation, their job is to maintain the streets.”

There were some questions as to who a “community partner” would be and how they could apply. It was explained that the most common applicants are Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Block Associations. There is an online application where the community group can apply.

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CB7 board member, Jay Adolf, expressed concern for streets remaining open for deliveries and obstacles that residents living on the block could face. He hopes that the DOT will consult with the community board before making any street closures.

Local organization, Streetopia, has been working on a more pedestrian friendly city for some time. In a recent email, Streetopia’s director, Lisa Orman stated “As we look back on our past and forward to our future, one thing is very clear to us at Streetopia: we don’t want to go back to that old normal – we want a very different future.”

It seems that the need for more space to walk and ride bikes is more pressing than ever. With this new program as an option, we will see how many more streets will open up. Here’s a full list of current street closures.

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Featured images c/o Google Street View

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