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Open Streets Could Save New York

Open Streets Could Save New York

Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio,

We urge you to expand the size and scope of the Open Streets program, which is vital to New York City’s recovery.

Small business owners, restaurateurs, healthcare professionals, direct service providers, transportation professionals, and other essential workers know firsthand the consequences of COVID-19 and the road to recovery ahead. As leaders in these communities, we believe that it is our duty to speak out: car-filled streets, crowded sidewalks, and packed subway cars pose a public health risk and impede our city’s recovery. We have reviewed the data and wholeheartedly endorse expanding the size and scope of Open Streets as a proven solution.

The Open Streets plan you initiated is commendable. We urge you to think bigger. New York City needs Open Streets that serve more purposes and more people. In addition to allowing physical distancing outside of parks, Open Streets must also be networks for alternative transportation — allowing New Yorkers to safely reach essential destinations, provide space for our restaurants and stores to reopen, and introduce cleaner air in neighborhoods plagued by pollution and disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Closing or reducing access to streets by cars and opening them to people walking and biking, as well as small businesses, has been shown to reduce traffic crashes and injuries, pollution, and congestion, and increase economic activity. Open Streets should also be an equity tool where health outcomes are most disparate and public space needs are most apparent.

New York City’s economic recovery can not be achieved without Open Streets. Our restaurant and retail industries need Open Streets to be able to reopen their doors. The very functionality of our transportation network requires Open Streets. Without Open Streets, we will fail to meet the challenges of climate change, and we will not correct the inequities in health that made COVID-19 so deadly for low-income communities and communities of color. The expansion of Open Streets must include:

  • Open Streets for Business, where streets allow restaurants and retail storefronts to safely expand their footprint
  • Open Streets for Equity, where streets provide relief to the neighborhoods and communities most affected by pollution, asthma, lack of green space, and COVID-19
  • Open Streets for Resiliency, where streets support our climate change goals
  • Open Streets for Transportation, where streets encourage biking and walking as alternative transportation and support public transit.
  • Open Streets for Health, where streets provide safe space for physical distancing and reduce the spread of the virus while promoting mental health and wellness.

The challenges ahead of our city cannot be ignored. Restaurant and retail industries need a lifeline and a new mode of operation. Disproportionately impacted communities remain at greater health risk. Our climate goals are all the more urgent knowing that COVID-19 death rates are correlated with air pollution. Public transportation feels unsafe to many and if even a small percentage choose to drive instead, already congested streets will come to a standstill.

The solution can be found in reimagining the streets and sidewalks that make up 80 percent of our public space. Open Streets work. In cities from Oakland to London to Milan to Bogota, streets are being adapted to the aftermath of COVID-19 and leading these cities toward recovery.

Right now, you have the opportunity to prepare our city for a near-future of recurrent outbreaks and seed the ground of New York’s long-term recovery by expanding the scope of Open Streets. We call on you to think big and take necessary action on this transformative idea now.

Signed,

510 W. 134 Tenant Association
5 Boro Bike Club
6th Street Community Coalition
89th Street Tenants Unidos Association
Acupuncture Mobile Services
ALIGN
Art of Cycling
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Bike Houston
Bike New York
BRAKES
Brompton Bicycle Inc
Brompton Junction NYC
Bronx Health REACH
Brooklyn Crepe
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
Ciclistas Latinoamericanos de Nueva York
Court Square Civic
COVID Care Neighbor Network
CRREW: Community Relief & Rebuilding through Education & Wellness
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
DUMBO Improvement District
East Village Vintage Collective
East Village Wellness Circle
El Puente
Families for Safe Streets
Financial District Neighborhood Association
Five Boro Pizza Challenge
Flatbush Development Corporation
Flower Power
Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce
Green Map System
Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association
Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership
Hollaback!
@howtobebrokeinnewyork
Hudson Clearwater
Jackson Heights Beautification Group
La Colmena
League of American Bicyclists
LES Ecology Center
Make Brooklyn Safer
Make Queens Safer
Millennium Development
Mos Collective
New York League of Conservation Voters
New Yorkers for Parks
Newtown Creek Alliance
North Brooklyn Neighbors
North Brooklyn Parks Alliance
NY Cycle Club
Oonee Pod
Open Plans
Out Cycling Inc.
OUT Rockaway
Ovenly
Pakistani American Youth Society
Park Slope Neighbors
Pride Center of Staten Island
Queens Bike Initiative
Rachel Kaplan Acupuncture
Regional Plan Association
Reimagine NYC
Riders Alliance
Right of Way
Rocking the Boat
Seemore Meats & Veggies
Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness
Staten Island Therapeutic Gardens
Straphangers Campaign
Street Plans
Street Vendor Project (Urban Justice Center)
StreetsPac
Think Zero LLC
Transportation Alternatives
The Trust for Public Land
Together We Can
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
UP-STAND Movement
West 45th / 46th Street Block Association
West 134th St Block Association
Workers Justice Project
Youth BUILD