streets week!

NYC to Launch ‘Open Boulevards' Initiative in Time for Summer 2021

The new initiative enhances the Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • The Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs have transformed New York City during the pandemic -- proving to be successful initiatives allowing for New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors while also helping small businesses. With this in mind, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is planning to launch Open Boulevards to further enhance these programs.
  • The Open Restaurants program, which rolled out this summer, expands seating options for restaurants on select restaurant corridors citywide by temporarily closing streets to traffic to create outdoor dining space.
  • Meanwhile, the Open Streets initiative was successfully introduced late spring. The idea was to provide pedestrians enough room to enjoy the outdoors while adhering to social distancing norms by closing certain streets to traffic.

The Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs have transformed New York City during the pandemic -- proving to be successful initiatives allowing for New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors while also helping small businesses. With this in mind, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city is planning to launch Open Boulevards to further enhance these programs.

In addition to creating extra space for dining, Open Boulevards will feature cultural activities, community-based programming, landscaping and other beautification, and art installations.

"Open Boulevards takes the concepts of Open Streets and supercharges it," the mayor said during his daily coronavirus press briefing. "Multiple blocks in a row, filled with restaurants with performances, with community activities. [It'll be] great for the neighborhood, great for tourists, too."

De Blasio believes that the new initiative will piggy back off of the success of its predecessor, the Open Streets program.

"This is the kind of thing that people are going to love because it has all the life and vitality, of New York City. All the diversity, all the energy will be on display in these Open Boulevards. So this is going to be the summer of New York City and the Open Boulevards are going to be a great example of the reason people will flock here to experience what we have in a way that no other place on earth has."

The city will be opening 10 boulevards across the five boroughs to begin on a rolling basis in the next few weeks.

"This is a crucial piece of a recovery for all of us – doubling down on what is great about New York City, doubling down on the things that make us special….everyone will benefit," the mayor said. "Neighborhoods will benefit for sure. Restaurants will benefit...we want all of them to be strong in the year 2021. Open Boulevards is going to help us do that."

According to de Blasio, the city will also continue to focus on where the need is greatest to bring equity to its streets through public spaces and programming in the 33 neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic.

Projects are already underway in 20 if the 33 neighborhoods, according to the mayor. The projects include:

  • New Open Streets
  • New plazas
  • Expanded pedestrian space
  • Street seats
  • Markets
  • Performance art, activities and more

The launch of Open Boulevards comes following a successful Open Streets and Open Restaurants run.

The city's implementation of the Open Streets and Open Restaurants initiatives during the course of the ongoing pandemic was so successful, it made them permanent, year-round fixtures across the city this past September.

The Open Restaurants program, which rolled out in summer 2020, expands seating options for restaurants on select restaurant corridors citywide by temporarily closing streets to traffic to create outdoor dining space.

The initiative rolled out in July 2020 and initially featured nearly two dozen of New York City's Open Streets will now feature Open Restaurants summer weekends. It expanded since then to feature more streets and restaurants.

The idea behind the initiative was to allow the restaurant industry to open safely outdoors, while indoor dining was prohibited, during the pandemic. Although indoor dining has since rolled out, it has done so at limited capacity, with restaurants still using outdoor space to seat customers.

The mayor had been hinting at extending the outdoor dining initiative for some time with hopes it will give struggling restaurants a lifeline for survival.

Meanwhile, the Open Streets initiative was successfully introduced late spring 2020. The idea was to provide pedestrians enough room to enjoy the outdoors while adhering to social distancing norms by closing certain streets to traffic.

Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said the Open Boulevards is an evolution of the previous city programs.

"Open Boulevards is just really this evolution of what we’ve learned over the past year: how we can create a more livable city by reimagining our streets, our public space and really finding complementary uses," he said. "And, we also know, when we launched the Open Restaurants program it helped safe thousands of small beloved businesses…it’s just so exciting to see this evolution. And I have no doubt that when we expand this program through the Open Boulevards program and weave it with beautification and art instillation and cultural initiatives, and really gets communities involved we build back a more resilient, a more livable city that really supports everyone in so many different ways."

Rigie went on to say: "These are the types of programs that are innovative, that help really aid in that recovery."

More information, including days, hours, and operating partners, can be found at www.nyc.gov/openboulevards.

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