By Raanan Geberer and Jaime DeJesus
New York City’s Open Street program is returning this year, and many Brooklyn shopping streets are participating, with the sponsorship of Business Improvement Districts and other local organizations.
The program started in 2020 in order to make certain streets in the city car-free and to allow pedestrians to reclaim and repurpose city streets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the City Council voted to make the Open Streets program permanent, and the city Department of Transportation announced a new program to support community groups that wished to host an Open Street.
Different neighborhoods will have different types of Open Streets programs. In “Limited Local Access,” while the street is designated for pedestrian and cyclist use, local vehicle access is allowed for local use — no through traffic. Drivers are advised to drive 5 mph or slower, the DOT says.
“Full Closure” will ban vehicles altogether, although a 15-foot emergency lane must be clear at all times. “Full Closure: Schools” is similar, but supports recess, outdoor learning, and drop-off and pick-up operations, according to DOT.
Photo courtesy of Sunset Park BID.
Among the most active Open Streets programs have been those on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, sponsored by the Sunset Park Improvement District, and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, sponsored by the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID).
In Sunset Park, the programming, on Fifth Avenue between 39th and 42nd streets, will run from June through August from 4 to 10 p.m. The BID will invite artists, musicians, and youth groups to perform and run free activities.
The BID hopes to bring several activities unique to the neighborhood, such as Sunset Salsa Dancing, Movies Under the Stars, an art walk, Latin jazz performances, and Tae Kwon Do.
The Sunset Park BID is asking for money to add activities to its itinerary. “Your tax-deductible donation will help the BID create a vibrant space for the community and a safe zone of youth activities, entertainment, shopping, and outdoor dining,” said the BID on its GoFundMe page. “The Sunset Park BID, a 501(c) nonprofit organization needs sponsorship and donations.” So far, the BID has raised nearly $2,000 since the fundraiser went up on April 26.
In Park Slope, the third annual Park Slope Fifth Avenue Open Streets program has been expanded to Sundays, starting May 1 and running through June 26. Saturday Open Streets kicked off April 23 and will run through Oct. 29, featuring 15 blocks along Fifth Avenue open to pedestrians and closed to vehicular traffic.
BID director Joanna Tallantire says the days will be jam-packed with special events. “We’re delighted to herald the return of the Fabulous Fifth Avenue Fair on Sunday May 15, running from Sterling to 12th Street. Our special events and shows include everything from the Brooklyn Pride Parade, food festival Tastes of Park Slope, pop-up artisan markets and family-friendly variety shows. There are a lot of good reasons to come have fun on #theOther5th. Our restaurants expanding into the street, there will plenty of room for checking out boutiques, strolling, and sitting in the sun.”
Among the Open Street events scheduled in Park Slope are the Fabulous Fifth Avenue Fair (May 15, 10-6 p.m., Sterling to 12th streets); Art Stroll (May 21, 12-8 p.m., 1st-3rd streets) with Jonathan Blum; Brooklyn Pop-Up Artisan Market (June 4, local artisans Union to Sterling); Brooklyn Pride Fair and Twilight Parade (June 11, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.with Twilight Parade at 7:30 p.m.); Movies on the 4th Street Plaza (Saturdays in July); Kids Variety Shows with Magician (May and June), and more.
As with the Sunset Park BID, the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID is seeking to raise money from the community, in this case $50,000, to pay for the complete program. “We did it last year, we hope to do it again,” said Tallantire.
Yet another important local street that has hosted Open Streets since 2020 is Montague Street between Clinton Street and Pierrepont Place. The program, sponsored by the Montague Street BID, is a “full closure” on Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. This stretch of Montague Street is a gateway to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Also in the Heights, the Willowtown Association is sponsoring a “limited local access” open street from Furman Street to Hicks Street, with varied hours Mondays through Sundays.
Ten additional Brooklyn streets were added to the program, totaling 47 in the borough. The new streets include: Watkins Street: Street End to Belmont Avenue; North 15 Street: Nassau Avenue to Banker Street; South 1 Street: Berry Street to Wythe Avenue; Buffalo Avenue: St. Marks Avenue to Bergen Street; West 12 Street: Surf Avenue to Street End; Lewis Avenue: Fulton to Hancock Street; Graham Avenue: Scholes Street to Montrose Avenue; Chauncey Street: Howard Avenue to Saratoga Avenue; Benson Avenue: Bay 19 Street to 18th Avenue; and Duffield Street-Metrotech Center to Willoughby Street.
“Open Streets was one of the few bright spots of the pandemic, and I am proud that we have found a way to support more streets in more diverse communities in every borough that can be part of this incredible and permanent program,” said NYC Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.