Cars Keep Driving Down the West End Avenue ‘Open Street’, Endangering Pedestrians


West End Avenue looking north from 87th Street.

West End Avenue between 87th and 96th Street is supposed to be blocked to vehicles every day from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., but vehicles have repeatedly ignored the blockades and zoomed down the street — putting pedestrians in danger.

Several readers have reached out about this in recent days. One problem is that drivers coming off the Henry Hudson Parkway have been ignoring barriers to drive through the open street. “I think that the biggest problem is 95th Street,” one wrote. “I see cars heading off the Henry Hudson Parkway, east along 95th, and they turn right (red arrows) to head south onto the northbound lane of West End Ave which is not blocked. And then they speed down the road.” He thinks the city needs to put more barriers on West End at 95th so that drivers don’t turn in.

The open streets were designated by the Department of Transportation but are mostly enforced by NYPD. The 24th Precinct has apparently been getting a lot of complaints about drivers too, according to Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi, the commanding officer of the precinct.

“We have received a number of 311 complaints about this.  I think there is a frustration level as traffic returns to normal levels that a road that is usually used to access the West Side Highway or other routes is shut down for 12 hours during the day.

Having said that, whether West End Ave. remains an Open Street for everybody is a DOT decision.

Until that decision is made by them, we will do our best to maintain the safety of the people using it. We have been provided the regular wooden barriers to block off W. 96 St. and West End Ave., we will explore getting a barrier that may discourage this type of complained use.

We do have to balance that with local traffic and emergency vehicles needing to get by.

We will also put some officers there periodically to discourage drivers who are doing this.

I appreciate the complaints being passed along.”

The DOT assures us that the West End Avenue open street continues to be in force and should be blocked off.

NEWS | 69 comments | permalink
    1. Kim says:

      This has been a problem since it first opened. Walking down the street I have seen cars and delivery trucks that carefully go around the wooden barricades and then make you have to move to the side to avoid them. This is NOT a new problem.

    2. Paul says:

      First, the Avenue isn’t closed to cars. It’s closed to through traffic.

      Second, and sadly, the “open street” is barely used. I live on it and see this every day. Example, this past Saturday, an absolutely fabulous day, around 3, I walked up the avenue from 87 to 92. In five blocks, there were four pedestrians and a family of three playing jump rope. On five blocks, on a weekend, in glorious weather.

      75 th was designated as an open street from Broadway to Riverside. It was never used and the prescient abandoned it after a few weeks. Did anyone even notice?

      • Jason says:

        Perhaps it’s not being used because people don’t feel safe using it as people keep driving around entry barriers

        • Nevets K says:

          I happen to like it. It’s calming.
          But perhaps it’s not being used because there’s no longer any need for its use.
          Nor is there any need for those moronic “loading zones”
          on every block of West End. Unlike the open street, which had a brain behind it, those “loading zones” were moronic from the start.
          Time to say goodbye to another failed experiment brought to you by “community leaders” from their country homes..

        • Elyse says:

          It’s not being used, because it is not inviting for “park-type” use. It is incredible impediment for those driving. Often, drivers have to go far out of their way to avoid the “closed” streets that are not being used. It creates traffic delays, energy waste, pollution, and defeats the economy since business traffic cannot efficiently get where it’s going. While cars are legal in this city, they must also be accommodated.

        • Paul says:

          When it was a novelty some people came out with lawn chairs, dog toys, etc.
          That wore off after a week. The lack of use I described has been the norm since.

          Question: why bother with camping on asset End when Riverside Park is a three minute walk away?

      • notsofast says:

        Thanks for identifying a crucial element of the problem: whenever *some* vehicles but not others are allowed, there is bound to be a problem with enforcement. The real problem is INEQUALITY. Closing the street serves no function except to affirm the class privilege of the affluent residents of WEA. Using the slogan “Open Streets” as a label for a program of *closing* streets is a dead giveaway that something is being covered up, namely, class inequality. If WEA residents want to live in a gated community, they should move to Florida.

        • Paul says:

          The “open streets” are in most neighborhoods and there are some bisecting NYCHA projects, so no, it’s not about class or elitism.
          It’s about whether they’re being used.
          And they’re not.

        • LL says:

          In sorry but….what? There certainly is inequality in this city, in this country. How is the street “closure” an example of this? When people WERE using those open streets all kinds of people were there. Not just WEA residents, and it wasn’t designed just for West End residents.

          It WAS designed so cars would go slowly through.

          That being said, traffic is almost normal now. It seems pointless mow

        • Josh P. says:

          There is a huge problem with inequality in the way we use our streets. Half of every street is reserved for people who own cars. Most of our community does not own a car and could use that space to safely spend time outdoors. It’s a huge problem!

      • Big Earl says:

        Reminds me of all the bike lanes that also go unused except for a few random people twice an hour.

      • Josh P. says:

        I noticed. I complained and sent an email to Helen Rosenthal asking for an explanation. I never received a response. I mentioned it at a CB7 meeting. They seem surprised that it had been removed.
        People need open space now more than ever. The city made a plan to provide that and there just hasn’t been any follow through.

    3. Sabrina Rosen says:

      Another way Deblasio is dampening this city’s recovery. School buses have had to make detours to pick up/drop off kids. Why can’t we get back to normal already? At least open it up for weekdays so NY can get back to work and school!

    4. CrazyDNP says:

      I noticed this today-a lot of cars just cruising down WEA for blocks. The worst was a guy on a motorcycle who crossed into the Northbound side to pass a car going South. As soon as he passed, he accelerated and blew through 2 red lights.

      • Elys says:

        This requires discernment. Yes, that was a crazy, reckless guy. Most are not crazy reckless people. Generalizing is the first sign of prejudice, so I hope you make more reasoned deductions going forward. Thank you.

    5. Maxine S says:

      The corner of 96 West End ave where there One of the barriers is located, is very poorly lighted. Carsrun right into the barriers and go right up on the sidewalk afterwards. Just today I saw a car stop just short of the barrier realizing the problem and then backed up and turned around. It is very hard to see the barriers at night because of the poor lighting.

    6. robert says:

      Part I
      Open streets are NOT enforced by the NYPD. All of the streets in this program are OPEN to traffic. When the mayor tried this on a few streets down the NYPD quickly made it clear that they did not have the manpower to staff these due to C19. So, they were stopped. The plan for WEA would have required 6 to 8 officers and a Sgt due to the number of hours.

    7. Stef Lev says:

      If you don’t know about the closed streets, there’s no notice to drivers ahead of the barriers, which are not very substantial as shown in the photo. Better signage is necessary.

    8. MF says:

      I own a car and live in the area that is being blocked off. When I have to move my car for alternate side parking purposes, that is, to look for another parking spot, I consider myself local traffic and inch along West End Ave avoiding pedestrians. I never honk for anyone to get out of the way, I just inch along behind them and then make my turn. Most of the time, there is no one there at all. Which brings me to another point.

      I never understood why these streets were blocked off anyway. The sidewalks on West End Ave are plenty wide, wide enough for the few pedestrians to be walking at the same safe distance from one another as they do in the car lanes.

    9. ST says:

      That is a main way to get to the Henry Hudson Parkway so blocking it was ludicrous.

    10. robert says:

      Part II
      Several local electeds did an end run on the NYPD going directly to the mayor’s office. They created this plan without any input from NYPD or even the local precincts. They cut a deal with the mayor’s office saying they and “community partners” would provide staff to monitor this every min the barricades were up. From day one months ago, till tonight no one has ever showed up from our local electeds office and/or their so called “community partners”.
      Perhaps people should be asking Ms. Rosenthal were here promised staffing for this is.

    11. robert says:

      Part III
      The local precinct only found out this was happening the night before when the media asked about when a tree came down blocking RSD at 100th street.

      If you bother to look each of the sawhorses has a yellow sign on it that says drive slow 5 mph. People just do not pay attention. There have been several accidents with elderly and small children, with BIKERS, not cars.

    12. robert says:

      Part IV
      A car you can see and hear, not a biker that thinks he is training for the next tour de France. Just last week another 5 year old was hit and knocked down by a biker that took off. The kid will be ok but he required a number of stiches to his face and head.
      This is not something to blame NYPD for, the questions should be to our local electeds that said their staff would be out there 7 days a week 08.00 to 20.00

    13. UWsidedude says:

      Nobody is using the empty streets. I live on 96th and 90-96th is nearly always empty. I love the idea of open streets but in reality it really seems like a waste.

    14. Juan says:

      Blocking off West End is pointless. The sidewalks are not crowded and very few people walk in the streets. I’m not sure what this accomplishes other than jamming up Broadway, which slows down buses.

      But if you are going to block it off, block it off. One movable blockade just confuses people, particularly since the delivery trucks seem to all ignore it.

    15. Digs says:

      They do this on the weekends when amsterdam streets are closed off. I see cars still driving by. There should be cops watching so that this doesnt happen.

    16. Sal says:

      Who cares, its a city, go to the park if you dont like cars. Just shut up.

    17. Jen says:

      Try living on 93rd St. between West End and Riverside. It’s horrible having all these barriers up. Terrible traffic and the “open streets” are certainly not being used during the times when I’m there. It’s just another way to keep the city from functioning.

    18. Katrina W says:

      I complained via 311 about this a month ago and was told that the city can’t reinforce it, it is up to the residents and that I should “work with my neighbors to post signs.” Frustrating, especially since PS75 is right there at the corner. It was a great spot for our young daughter to practice biking over the summer but we no longer feel safe doing so, even on the weekends. Thanks for posting about this issue.

    19. Protect Open Streets says:

      We have found contractors and delivery vehicles are largely compliant. But many others are zipping through the barricades and not happy when told to slow down (while I am walking with my 7 year old son). The other day, a taxi told me to “shut up, b**ch.” Yesterday, a car turned onto WEA going 20-25 mph. I indicated with my hands that the driver should slow down and, as she drove by, she yelled “I LIVE HERE!” It doesn’t matter! The posted speed limit is 5 mph to protect pedestrian safety. We have filed numerous 311 complaints.

    20. JS says:

      Please note a serious flaw with the boundary.
      Vehicles going west on 96th Street are not permitted to make a left turn on Broadway. Vehicles thus proceed west and then discover it is not possible to make a left on West End – and so are forced onto the West Side Highway.
      This is especially dangerous for drivers unfamiliar with the area.

      • EdNY says:

        Why don’t they just make a right on WEA and go around to Broadway where they can turn south?

      • RationalUWSer says:

        Or they can just make a right onto West End.
        This isn’t that hard people. I hear a whole lot of complaining from the minority of people that choose to have cars. You’re lucky the rest of us don’t because this city would not function if everyone played the “me, me, me game” and also decided to get a car.

        • JS says:

          Rational,
          This traffic issue was brought to my attention by a colleague and since then have observed as a pedestrian numerous times.

      • JS says:

        To Edny and Rational,
        Drivers are in the left lane expecting to make a left onto West End, so when they realize they can’t, not really possible to make a right onto West End, unless they cut off vehicles in the right lane.

        The issue is not about whether NYC residents have cars or don’t have cars – the issue is the danger as unfamiliar drivers try to figure out what to do.
        Just observing the traffic, actually most of the drivers seem to be commercial.

        The solution would be to move the boundary to 94th Street.

    21. KikiDiDi says:

      I love West End being open, and I walk on it every day. And yes, I am a New Yorker who works, but does so virtually to protect you and to protect my family.

    22. steve says:

      The street should not be blocked in the first place

    23. CityGirl57 says:

      I have enjoyed walking on the open avenue and have noticed small groups of people sitting out in chairs. Children riding bikes and scooters too. More recently though I am not comfortable for the traffic has picked up. Its really been nice earlier but as mentioned never very crowded …

    24. FamilyBill says:

      The closed streets have been amazing. I have a young family and my kids found room to play safely in the street this summer outside our building, as did other families on our block.
      Since around Labor Day, it’s not safe anymore. Cars zip through at full speed.

    25. Hank says:

      There should generally be a growing question of the enforcement situation in the UWS during a time of deteriorating law following in recent weeks.

      Cars and bikers frequently blowing through Red lights or pedestrian-filled crosswalks, just as frequently as WEA barricades.
      Lewd behavior in the street.
      Car window smashings.
      Robberies.
      Violent crimes.
      Rarely-seen-these-days NYPD officers: don’t follow the law and wear masks properly, if at all.

      Instead of commenting on this blog and defending inaction or blaming politicians — it would be nice to see changes and leadership that make our neighborhood safer again.

    26. Christina says:

      The problem is that the barriers aren’t blocking the whole street. They should be put in the middle of instead of alternating barriers on side of street at the beginning and end of street! When there’s an event like say, a street fair, the barriers are in the middle instead of either side of street! It’s too easy for cars to zig zag through these barriers as they are now! Putting them in the middle avoids that unless they get out of their car and moves them to either side (as they are situated now)

    27. Lauren says:

      Local traffic is supposed to go 5 mph on this part of west end. I understand that it still needs to be accessed by residents, taxis, delivery vehicles, etc. The issue is that many of them drive on the street at normal speeds—or more—when pedestrians are walking and children are playing on the street. I initially tried to take advantage of the extra space, but I refuse to let my kids ride their bikes and scooters out there because they are very much in danger of being hit by a vehicle OR EBIKE barreling through with no regard to the barricades and their instructions.

    28. Tag Gross says:

      This is a perfect example of the incomptence of NYC, the DOT and of the local community board. There is a park one block to the West. Central Park is a whopping 4 blocks away. There is no need for an open street. There is certainly no need for one to start at 96th street, one of the most congested intersections on the westside especially with two new costruction projects on 96th street further restricting taffic. One can only assume that the goal is to make the West End traffic back up even worse, increase noise pollution, aggressive driving and dumping emissions into the air for the residents to enjoy.

      • Josh P. says:

        Hey Tag, I don’t think you should assume anyone is just trying to make things worse. Parks vs. traffic is an argument that New Yorkers have been having since the days of Bob Moses vs Jane Jacobs. There have always been people like you who don’t understand why we can’t just make traffic more efficient by giving more public space over to roads, highways, cars, and parking. I would argue that turning over more space to cars destroys the things that make a neighborhood worth visiting in the first place. Over and over again, the people of this neighborhood and this city have chosen parks over parking. Personally, I hope that we continue to grow the amount of green space in our city!

    29. Daniel says:

      This was very necessary when implemented back in ~April/May. It was liberating to be able to walk down the street without coming within 6 feet of someone else. The streets were very utilized with people talking in spaces out circles and children playing. The clapping at 7pm was also a great thing to see in person. Now that we are slowly returning to “normal” people can sit at outdoor restaurants and are more comfortable going to parks and children are returning to school so less necessary.

      • robert says:

        Unfortunately some in the media and our local elected started reminding people that by clapping for first responders, you where showing support for NYPD
        UWS/Manhattan clapping stopped. much of the outer boroughs and especially Staten Island, still goes on

    30. G says:

      what is the purpose of closing streets if cyclists, skateboarders and other wheel-heads don’t obey traffic laws or stay off the sidewalks. also, local traffic IS allowed. if you can’t figure out how to walk on the sidewalk properly, perhaps open streets is not your biggest problem.

    31. Blonde says:

      I live on West End and 89 St. I routinely need to drop off groceries and family members in front of my building. The present barriers although difficult to maneuver do work. The street cannot be totally closed off because of daily local deliveries and tenant personal usage . There are less people using the open street now for walking and other outdoor activities due to cooler weather. I assume West End will revert to total car usage once the weather is cold. Perhaps more surveillance is needed in the meantime not more barriers.

    32. Jay says:

      Time to restore West End to its normal use. It’s being used overwhelmingly by pedestrians who can easily use the wide sidewalks. The danger will disappear. West End is a residential street, not a park!

    33. Emily says:

      I love having WEA open! I live on the block and have enjoyed walking without worrying about too many people. It has been great for hanging out in the evening.

      Cars are not driving safely and seems to have gotten worse as traffic increases in the city. People are frustrated by traffic on Broadway and Riverside and cutting over to WEA. But the police taking zero responsibility for the safety of citizens because they don’t like the closed street program is unacceptable.

      And for the other comments on bike lanes; I’ve been using those as well!

    34. Paulof NYC says:

      I am not sure why 103rd street was also closed but the same thing happens on 103rd Street. Many cars drive down the entire block. The only drivers that obey the barriers are car service drivers (like when I returned from a hospital stay and had to walk down the block from West End Avenue).

    35. Johnny says:

      I have been a big fan of the open streets on WEA since they were put in place. Overall, things are fine. Most cars that I’ve seen are respectful and only go a block or two as needed at slow speeds. However, some cars definitely zip through all ten blocks at speeds way faster than 5mph. These cars are the problem.

      I think even the 95th street complaint is overblown – if a car sees that the street is open to make a turn and needs to go a block or two at slow speeds, this should not be an issue.

    36. DeDe says:

      To the woman who turned onto West End from 93rd Street full speed honking at families using their open streets for some fresh air. Honking at kid walking his dog, Honking at a man yelling at her when she almost hit him and his children. then turn onto 91st honking all the way down. I think about you everyday, you haunt my dreams. I hope you enjoy the hell 2020 brings you.

    37. Peter says:

      I took video of West End Avenue around 5pm a couple weeks ago, a snake of cars just cruising all the way up the street, around all the barriers. I observed two police cars along with the others, stopping nobody, ticketing nobody.

      You can argue either way whether WEA should closed to traffic with Riverside Parks a block away. I will mention, however, that, wondering if all the cars were due to a traffic jam on Broadway, I wandered over that way. Not at all! There was practically no traffic on Broadway.

      The reason for my anger is I was nearly hit. A car raced up behind me silently and jerked to a stop about a yard away. I wasn’t aware of it until a couple pedestrians nearby started screaming at the driver, who merely swerved around me without apology and continued up the street along with all the other cars.

      Unless you want Open Streets to become Open Death, the city has to take enforcement seriously. If they can’t, they should halt the program immediately.

    38. EC says:

      I’ve been meaning to send in photos I’ve taken of broken barriers lying in the streets and several cars turning into the blocked-off streets, glad someone beat me to it! While there was a time when this Open Street served a valuable purpose, I second the folks on here who noted that with restaurants and stores now open and parks less crowded, people don’t need this escape.

      Furthermore, there’s a much better opportunity to have Open Streets be in commercial areas like the one
      north of 97th on Amsterdam so restaurants can have more of a chance to survive. End the Open Street on West End and move it to Amsterdam or Columbus if people still feel they need more space in this area!

    39. Michael G says:

      I walked down WEA today and was nearly run down by multiple cars before I retreated to the sidewalk at 90th.

      Parents and pedestrians are rightly terrified.

      No police to enforce the rules, even though it would be easy revenue to just pull over the constant stream of 15+ mph traffic on those blocks.

    40. SDJ_UWSer says:

      I enjoy using the open streets for walking and getting fresh air. I don’t have to worry about maintaining social distance from people who don’t use masks. I am also a driver, and don’t find it a major inconvenience. Regardless of whether the program should continue here, there should be adequate enforcement so it’s success or failure can measured on its own merits. Instead, drivers speed way above the 5MPH designated limit thru an imaginary center lane that easily avoids barriers, putting pedestrians, loungers, bikers and other drivers in danger.

    41. Joey says:

      This is ridiculous. Pedestrians belong on the sidewalk, vehicles in the street. The Open Street on West End Ave is not used enough to justify it.

    42. Anne says:

      It’s a little confusing because there are no signs and the barricade only goes across half the street, so it doesn’t look like a blocked area to cars.

    43. Concerned UWS resident says:

      It’s a mess right now. Too many cars, and most brazenly ignoring the barriers and driving wherever they want. I’ve almost been run over twice by cars. I pointed out to one driver that the street was closed and she gave me the finger. Nice. Need better enforcement or someone is going to be killed.

    44. Jack says:

      I live on 87th and WEA and see northbound drivers slam into the barricade once or twice a day. I don’t know whether they’re drunk, on their phones, or what. In any case, Open Streets provides a benefit to the vast majority of us who don’t have cars and represents only a minor nuisance to those who do; it ought to stay through the fall, albeit with more vigorous enforcement.

    45. Christopher Lisanti says:

      It’s not being used as it’s not necessarily. Just a hassle for drivers.

    46. UWSider says:

      I live at 87th and West End and have taken to moving the barriers back into place each time I cross the street so that cars do not go up WEA. At this point I don’t care if the Open Street program continues but one way or another it needs to either be made safe with enforcement or gotten rid of. It is going to end when someone gets killed and we will all look back at how we tried to get the city to enforce this. Let’s do this before that happens.

    47. Bruce says:

      The situation has been getting worse daily. I was nearly run down by a vehicle, called 911 and the 24th precinct never contacted me about it.

    48. Paul says:

      I find the bigger problem to be delivery people on electric bikes.

    49. Jim says:

      As a driver, I do drive through parts of WEA to park closer to my apartment. With this being said, I go the suggested 5 MPH and yield to pedestrians. As someone who also walks up WEA frequently, it really angered me to see some people driving at speeds upwards of 30 MPH up the closed street. A few bad apples…