What to Know
- New York City plans to open up 40 miles of streets to pedestrians, with a set goal of expanding to 100 miles of open streets
- The move is to provide additional open space to residents while still maintaining social distancing norms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday
- Earlier this month, New York City abandoned a pilot project to open major streets in each borough for pedestrian open space, citing the demand on NYPD resources as more and more cops call out sick
With warmer weather just around the corner, New York City plans to open up 40 miles of streets to pedestrians, with a set goal of expanding to 100 miles of open streets, all to provide additional open space to residents while still maintaining social distancing norms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.
"The way we will do it is we are going to focus first on streets in and around our parks. [We are] very concerned about the streets around parks. Often times we are seeing that immediate area getting very crowded," de Blasio said. "Those streets adjacent to parks are an obvious opportunity to open up more space. We are going to work together to figure out how we are going to do that."
De Blasio went on to explain that some other locations will see sidewalks expansion similar to what was done around Rockefeller Center during the winter holidays where the sidewalks space was opened up into the streets a bit more with proper barricades in place for safety.
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"Some streets will be more local areas that aren’t necessarily going to be where you have a major attraction like a park but they are places where we can safely open up some space and have it be enforced," he said. "And another piece of discussion is early action bike lanes where we see an opportunity to do more with bike lanes."
According to de Blasio, the city will focus first on where the need is greatest.
"So many communities that we have already identified have been already hard hit by COVID we want to be particularly sensitive to implementing these kind of steps," de Blasio said, adding that it will be a joint effort between the City Council, working with the police department, transportation department, sanitation department, parks department to figure "out all the right places we can do this, but first priority are the places hardest hit and then of course figuring out where they’ll have the biggest impact where the most people are."
This is the second attempt at closing down city streets in order to provide more open space to residents, while still keeping social distancing norms during the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier this month, New York City abandoned a pilot project to open major streets in each borough for pedestrian open space, citing the demand on NYPD resources as more and more cops call out sick.
The city had closed a series of major thoroughfares from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily for a couple of weeks. However, in a statement at that time, de Blasio's office said it was taking more than 80 cops a day to effect the closures, and not enough people were using the newly opened streets to justify that level of resource commitment.
It now appears that the mayor' office has changed course, and now will be opening up even more streets as the warmer spring weather approaches.
"We're telling people, still you need to shelter in place and yes, of course keep your social distancing. But we knew in the warm weather there would be some impulse to get out more," the mayor said during an interview late Monday with NY1. "The notion of opening up more space around the parks, opening up those streets made a lot of sense logistically and in terms of safety ... It's not open up a space and ignore it. It is open up a space and have enforcement to make sure that people handle it properly, but there is more space for everyone."
Despite the newfound flexibility when it comes to closing streets, de Blasio said there is no plan to open up pools any time soon, for social distancing and budgetary reasons. He did say there may be a small opening for beaches, however.
"Beaches are a little more flexible in the sense that right now of course they're open public spaces. There's no swimming. There won't be swimming anytime soon," the mayor said. "But if we make a lot of progress, there is a possibility of doing more with the beaches later on in the summer. Nowhere that I can identify. No time I can identify now, for sure. It’s too early to say. And nowhere near when we would normally open around Memorial Day. But I'm not ruling that out because we've made some really good progress in the last few weeks.