West End Avenue ‘Open Street’ Is Coming Back, With a Whole New Setup

The “open street” on West End Avenue that blocked traffic between 87th and 96th Street during the daytime was abruptly shut down by the Department of Transportation last month. The DOT didn’t explain why, but it was clear for weeks that there was minimal oversight for the street, and drivers kept speeding around or through the barricades and endangering pedestrians.

Update: the organizers tell us the open street has been delayed, and won’t open the weekend of December 12.

But a group of local residents are bringing it back in a new form, starting this weekend. Instead of the NYPD overseeing the street, local residents will do so. Local traffic can use the street at 5 mph, but through-traffic can’t. And for now it will just be on the weekends. The group sent us the explanation below and a sign-up sheet for volunteers to get involved. The new “Open Street” will be from 88th to 95th, a slight shift from the old boundaries.

Days: Saturdays and Sundays, starting December 12

Hours: 10 am to 4 pm

Streets: West End Ave between 88th and 95th Streets

Contacts: weaopenstreets@gmail.com or Twitter @OpenStreetWEA

The recently formed West End Avenue Open Street Community Coalition (WEA OSCC)* is very happy to announce the re-opening of the Open Street for weekends during the COVID winter. We are fortunate to have the support of NY Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal and her staff, who ably helped coordinate meetings with DOT and NYPD and pushed for much-needed resources to improve the safety and implementation of the Open Street.

As DOT’s community partner, volunteers from WEA OSCC are responsible for setting and taking down the barricades each day. We cannot do this work alone and need community members to assist with barricades. We also welcome non-physical and remote support, such as coordinating volunteer schedules, assisting with social media, documenting the community using the Open Street, etc. Our volunteer sign-up sheet is available at this link.

We will have double the barricades (4 at each intersection), to avoid the “car slalom” that happened increasingly after Labor Day, and better signage explaining how pedestrians, cars, and cyclists should share the road. We know there was some frustration and confusion this summer and fall about how the Open Street should function, and part of the WEA OSCC’s effort will be communicating guidelines more clearly to the community.

Local traffic is permitted at no more than 5 mph. This means that yes, residents and taxis/ride shares can access the road to park, to drop off passengers, or load/unload cars. Emergency vehicles and delivery trucks are permitted at 5 mph. Thru traffic is not permitted during Open Street days/hours and drivers should instead use Broadway, Riverside or other N/S options.

* Background about the WEA OSCC

The WEA OSCC formed in mid-October in a grassroots effort to take the community’s pulse about Open Streets on West End Avenue. Like many neighbors, we enjoyed using the Open Street through the COVID crisis for walking, biking, play, and meeting neighbors. But, we struggled for weeks to figure out how the Open Street was managed and who was actually responsible for it. We both lodged 311 complaints to DOT and even called 911 when we saw unsafe driving.

We launched a community survey on October 23, hanging fliers along the Open Street, canvasing buildings on WEA, and sharing the survey link with local neighborhood groups and volunteer organizations. The vast majority of our survey respondents are neighbors who live around the Open Street on West End Avenue and Riverside and the intersecting cross streets. A small minority are from farther away north of 96th Street or on the other side of Broadway.

We collected over 460 responses. 60% wanted to keep the Open Street year round, 15% wanted it only in warm weather, and 25% want the program ended. We also asked respondents how likely they would be to recommend Open Streets to a friend. More than half of the respondents were promoters, meaning they rated the program a 9 or 10 out of 10.

In the survey, residents shared the importance of the Open Street on WEA for safe socializing during the COVID crisis, particularly for elderly neighbors who are otherwise housebound or concerned about maintaining 6 foot distance on the sidewalks and parks. We heard about picnics, impromptu concerts, COVID-safe Halloween celebrations, and children learning to ride their bikes, among other stories. We have also heard strongly in favor of the reduced traffic and noise. Detractors are mostly drivers concerned with traffic, or people who were frustrated with safety and the Open Street’s implementation (many didn’t understand they could still access the road by car to drop off or pick up passengers with mobility issues).

We hope to keep the Open Street going in a weekend-only format this winter and reimagine a full-time Open Street in Spring 2021.

NEWS | 86 comments | permalink
    1. CrankyPants says:

      Streets are not for walking in. It’s unfortunate we’re having to dine in them these days. Keep the sidewalks for pedestrians and let the cars and (bloody) bikes take to the streets. Better to enforce the laws already in place.

    2. Anna says:

      This is really cool! Way to go!

    3. SM says:

      As has been asked before, why can’t people walk one block to Riverside drive to exercise? Do you really need to have an option right outside your doorstep regardless of what impact it has on others?

      This is another effort to find a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.
      Just makes life difficult for everyone.

      BTW, what is the definition of “local” traffic vs. “thru” traffic?

    4. SM says:

      As has been asked before, why can’t people walk one block to Riverside drive to exercise? Do you really need to have an option right outside your doorstep regardless of what impact it has on others?

      This is another effort to find a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.
      Just makes life difficult for everyone.

      BTW, what is the definition of “local” traffic vs. “thru” traffic? Is someone going to stop and ask every driver what their intent is?

    5. Peter says:

      Seems terribly ill-conceived. Cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians sharing the street – when you have broad sidewalks for the latter?!

      Who’s going to enforce the 5mph limit? A volunteer is not a cop, they’ll literally get laughed at by bad actors. How – radars? How exactly would Jessica prevent or punish dangerous violations? Will the volunteers have to call 911 every time someone goes 20mph?

    6. James says:

      I don’t see the need for this, as Riverside Park is one block away and there aren’t that many pedestrians on these blocks to begin with. In the meantime, traffic north of 96th St. gets backed up, with everyone having to turn either left or right, causing increased honking of horns and exhaust emissions for people like me who live on the 96th-100th St. blocks. Including on summer weekends, what with people returning to the city from out of town on Sunday afternoons/evenings.

    7. Buddy Revell says:

      Just in time for freezing temperatures. My god this neighborhood is dysfunctional….

    8. Paul says:

      If there’s a sincere wish to have the Avenue open for children at play the speed limit will have to apply to bikes and electric bikes as well.
      Otherwise there’s little purpose to this.

    9. Jody Baer says:

      As a resident of West End Ave I do not see the need or sense of closing the street. As echoed by others streets are for vehicles. There is more than enough space on the sidewalks for people to walk while remaining socially distant. Needless and ridiculous idea.

    10. Aw says:

      This is the most asinine idea ever!!!!! We have reached a new low. Surveys dictate policy. Hope no volunteers get punched in the face by irate motorists. But it will happen.

      • Nevets K says:

        “Foolish actions open the door to fate.”
        The theme of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the new closed street “initiative” on West End Ave.

    11. Crim says:

      Pedestrian malls, bus only lanes, unused bike lanes,barricades. All 1 block from RP and a few blocks from one of the countries largest urban parks,CP. The UWS is more over reactionary and impractical than ever.

    12. R says:

      This is not for exercise, it’s for the increased distance protocols regarding Covid and our current increase in cases. That’s what this is for. The sidewalks can get crowded, this allows for more ample space. Keeping each other in mind and being flexible until this is over.

      • Peter says:

        What COVID transmissions occurred on the WEA sidewalks in that area (some of the city’s widest) to require this? Do you have any data we don’t?

      • UWSideEye says:

        Clearly you are not familiar with the neighborhood. The sidewalks on West End are never crowded. Except for the scaffoldings.

      • MaryC says:

        The sidewalks on West end are never too crowded. There are no businesses, no bus stops so basically only residents walk there.
        Meanwhile on other avenues, stores, buses, outdoor dining and now Christmas tree vendors barely leave 3 feet of walking space for pedestrians for blocks on end.

      • Boris says:

        I call BS on the sidewalks getting so crowded that virus transmission is a risk outdoors. Walking in your lobby/elevator and past your neighbors, doormen, and building workers indoors is a bigger risk. Gosh, people are acting so mindless despite all the science out there.

    13. Leon says:

      This is ridiculous. Their survey likely consisted of them going up to people, asking whether they wanted this, then only counting votes if they said yes. The consistently negative comments about this on WSR are a much more accurate survey. Streets are a common good, not just for those in the immediate area. There are sidewalks and a park nearby for a reason.

      Don’t these busy bodies have something better to do? I hope someone starts monitoring usage of this so that when it is shown that no one actually uses it, it gets shut down.

      • Juan says:

        Someone should forward the link to this page to Linda Rosenthal. It is very clear how people feel about this. If she wants to listen to the opinion of the vast majority of her constituents, she will cancel this program immediately.

        Also, if people are so concerned about having room to walk at a distance from others, someone should look into the sidewalk homeless encampments that make it hard to walk on the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. These are a greater public nuisance.

    14. Steven Morvay says:

      Lots of pros and cons but…the key question not addressed is HOW WILL THIS BE ENFORCED? Without a plan for effective enforcement this simply WILL NOT WORK.

    15. Tatiana says:

      This is such a beautiful idea !! I wonder if we could incorporate some type of outdoors program for our unhomed fellow neighbors .. it would be a great opportunity to do some outreach and reassure them that we welcome them with open arms !

    16. Kari says:

      Closing WEA to traffic is the most ridiculous and dangerous decision. The excess traffic on Riverside Drive, caused by this closing is insane and dangerous, especially at the entrances to the park. Go walk in the park, one block away! You don’t need your personal promenade!

    17. js says:

      Please note that elderly residents, people with disabilities will be unable to get a cab on West End as none will be there on these days.

      Not everyone uses Uber
      And the weather is getting colder….

    18. Ben Jade says:

      RIDICULOUS!

      Why set aside 8,9 city blocks “to walk” for people who are too lazy or overweight or unfit or whatever to walk over ONE block to beautiful, inviting, quiet Riverside Park?
      What’s happening to common sense, rationality, logic? And why make traffic even more problematic in the UWS?

    19. Jay Adolf says:

      Making WEA an “open’ street was, and is, totally unnecessary and dangerous as well. Police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances etc. need full and prompt passage in emergencies. As for social distancing, WEA sidewalks are typically 16′ wide and WEA in the “open” area is w/in 1 or 2 blocks of acres of parks (Riverside and Central). And one wonders how these “sponsors” will react when an ambulance is stuck behind the 4 barriers, a gaggle of pedestrians, a double parked delivery truck ,and children on bicycles while someone is dying waiting for it to arrive. Are they aware of the legal liabilty they will incur for their failure to clear the barriers, pedestrians etc? To expect untrained volunteers with no legal authority to manage traffic and enforce restrictions is absurd. In the pantheon of dumb ideas this one is near the top!

      • It seems like no one cares what the actual HUMAN BEINGS WHO LIVE HERE think about anything anymore. A state assemblywoman has bigger fish to fry than Open Streets on WEA which is park adjacent and totally not adding anything to the neighborhood. Who would choose to go there instead of a park? It’s just for car haters to say, we now 6 fewer cars on WEA. Go away, DOT and Linda R – JAY: why are you one of the few fully rational ppl on CB7?

    20. Christine says:

      Apparently zero consideration taken for your neighbors just a few blocks north (96th St+) who will now get to hear horn-honking from frustrated auto drivers backing up on West End. Thanks for asking us what we thought. Is the park a block to the west not a good enough outlet to roam around unimpeded by cars and the like?

    21. marci says:

      this is ridiculous especially in the cold weather. the wea sidewalks are sufficient for walking. Right now con ed is occupying most of the street anyway

    22. rj says:

      We who own cars need to park in these area. This is idiotic like the representives ( Rosenthal ) of the UWS. You folks are killing our area . First the homeless all over the streets. We are not safe . And now this again, we need to park the garages are to expensive. I never thought I would say this a life long New Yorker I will move out of NYC in the next few years. You people have destroyed the city,,,,

      • Dale says:

        Why does the city owe you free storage for your private vehicle? Cars already own 95% of the streets, which represents most of the public space in the whole city, to serve a small minority of people. You cant let a few blocks go?

        • Nevets K says:

          Oddly enough, Dale, I continue to ask myself your question, but about dogs’ and dog walkers’ use of valuable public sidewalk space.
          I mean, who gave them the right to use “our valuable public space” for such a private purpose? Clearly, dog owners are a small minority of people. Don’t you agree, then, that their rights, pleasures, and necessities should be severely limited, just as feel about those of car owners?
          In other words, why should I care about anyone except myself, especially in a city like New York?

    23. Denaliboy says:

      Fail to see why this is needed. Hard to believe this somehow will make it safer if cars are weaving through barricades with kids in the street. Foolish and dangerous

    24. Fritz says:

      I live on Riverside and 95th. This program has made the area much more dangerous. Its also very frustrating trying to park when West End is closed. It has also caused a huge traffic problem at rush hour trying to get to the West Side Highway. Cars have to line up forever on Broadway. We have HUGE sidewalks up here. This program should be done in the Wesf Village. I see very few people in thd streets and cars zig zagging to avoid to road blocks. I even saw a truck run right over one. It is completely LESS SAFE. What will the snow plows do??

    25. Ivan Stoler says:

      And how are we gonna stop through traffic?

    26. LEtta W. says:

      Ridiculous scheme. Emergency vehicles are required to travel at 5mph? In an emergency, minutes matter. Will Jessica and Christina be directing emergency vehicular traffic? And what happens when a pedestrian is injured by a taxi or other vehicle entering the zone not realizing it is a pedestrian zone? This is a half-baked and poorly planned concept.

    27. Dale says:

      Yay! Congrats to the city and activists for not giving in to angry, rule-breaking drivers. Streets should be prioritized for people to get outside safely and sustainable transportation – not for polluting metal cages. I just hope that it’s truly enforced this time.

    28. Kiely says:

      This is a great use of public space!! Cars are polluting, dangerous, and causing climate change. We have amazing public transit access and do not need more land in our city dedicated to cars — let’s reclaim our streets for our children and people to enjoy! <3 As long as we provide our elderly and disabled people with access to transportation, please continue with open streets throughout our beautiful neighborhood! (:

      • Juan says:

        There are countless reasons why this is a dumb idea, but to address some of the points you make:

        – This does not help the elderly because now it will be harder for them to hail a cab.
        – This does not help public transportation as it moves a lot of traffic from West End to Broadway, greatly slowing down buses.

        Why can’t you just walk to Riverside Park? Is it really that hard? I wish these people would spend their time more productively. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    29. Michella Robbins says:

      Total waste of mental energy to even think about this silly Project. Open Space is useless on park-adjacent blocks and the time I looked at a map, we had two gorgeous parks nearby. In fact, 1 block away. Why are we bothering with this nonsense? Why?!?!?! Because a member of the DOT comes to tell us it’s a good idea – excuse me but where do you live Colleen? Bad idea.

    30. 2020 NYC says:

      Not surprising that Linda Rosenthal supports quasi sustainability such as Open Streets.

      She also supports mandatory pandemic vaccines for New Yorkers. Check out her quietly introduced bill A11179

      (will this comment be censored too?)

    31. Local UWSer says:

      This is a terrible idea. As others have noted, there are generous sidewalks on West End and a beautiful park one block away. It really is that simple. Why in the world did Rosenthal decide this is the moment and topic that deserved her attention.

    32. your_neighbor says:

      What a crazy idea. I walk up and down WEA frequently and have never experienced anything remotely similar to overcrowding where social distancing could not be maintained.

    33. Dinosaurs didn't change says:

      Good to see the UWS NIMBY’s are alive and well. People, this is an experiment for 12 hours per week out of 168 hours. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. NYC is evolving!

      • Arrogance didn’t change says:

        Good to see the UWS Self-Importants are alive and well. People, this is a silly, dangerous and un-needed experiment for 12 hours per week. Bully, chastise, or get out of the way. NYC is devolving!

      • Paul says:

        That experiment was tried for six months and failed.

    34. UWSder says:

      At least this is only on the weekends. But I agree that the last version was a failure. As someone who lives at 87th ON WEA, it was clear that people ignored and often ran into the barriers. As soon as a legally local traveling car or truck moves a barrier to do what they are allowed to do, they will get back in their car and go up the avenue and not close the barrier behind them. The other cars will be off to the races. This program, while lovely in its intent, is ungovernable.

    35. Eric B says:

      This is the epitome of privilege. Restrict access to all for the benefit of a few. Create even greater congestion in the rest of the neighborhood so you don’t have traffic on your street. So selfish. I wonder which of Linda Rosenthal’s major donors lives on West End Avenue.

      • Christine says:

        You nailed it: “…restrict access to all for the benefit of a few…”

        This idea is nonsense and ill-conceived. Let traffic flow to prevent the backups at 96+ and 86-!

        I sold my car when I moved back to NYC 15ish years ago. I don’t particularly love traffic either. I like it even less when it’s backed up outside our apartment, creating noise and fumes.

    36. Judith says:

      The bicycles are the greatest menace all over the city right now. They do not stop for traffic lights and I personally have almost been hit by them zooming through intersections. I am not in favor of closing the street. We have perfectly suitable wide sidewalks on West End. I’m also tired of hearing the barriers smashed into and the loud bashing of skateboards while in my apartment on West End.

    37. Kathleen McKenna says:

      Frankly, I think Open Street is completely unnecessary. I live at WEA and 91st. I see so few people using it no matter what time of day. It makes dropping off packages at home a real bother. We have broad streets and plenty of parks nearby. This is a misguided initiative.

    38. ml says:

      Puzzled that that residents of West End feel that the sidewalks are crowded and pose Covid dangers?
      West End north of 86th Street is not dense relative to the surrounding area.
      In fact the sidewalks are often empty.
      And quite a few people I know who live on West End have second homes and remain away due to Covid or go to their second homes on weekends

    39. SM says:

      As should be abundantly clear from the comments, there is overwhelming objection to this initiative, especially from people who live on WEA.

      Are the organizers listening? This should stop before it starts.

      How can we effect this change?

      • Jay says:

        The WSR commenters are in no way representative of the neighborhood.

        • Christine says:

          We aren’t? Huh. News to me.

          Do you think people in outer space or the mid-Atlantic or the Deep South are reading/commenting on this WEST SIDE Rag post?

    40. Dragon says:

      Since they started it on w103rd st, we have two times more traffic, vehicles are almost hitting confused pedestrians every day. So, please remove all that nonsense so we can have normal street again with less cars.

    41. Chris says:

      Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the upper west side is a rapidly aging neighborhood. We need quick and easy access to transportation, not blocked streets. The parking situation is already a nightmare. Why doesn’t someone work on that in-stead of wasting time creating an unnecessary walkway??

      Use your brains, people- please!!

      • Fed Up with UWS says:

        Totally agree. This is what people are focusing on?!

      • Boris says:

        What data do you have that proves the UWS population is aging rapidly? I’ve seen some data that might indicate otherwise with the median age going down.

    42. Johnny says:

      Hooray! As someone who used the WEA open streets throughout the pandemic, I’m happy to see it come back for weekends.

      • Buddy Revell says:

        What did you use the streets for that couldn’t be done one block away. I’ll wait….

        • Johnny says:

          More room to walk, bike etc. in a socially-distanced fashion. Say what you will, but you’re hardly ever 6 feet + away from people on city sidewalks or in the Park.

    43. Alex says:

      This is an honest question. What are you supposed to do in an open street, or what are you allowed to do? Can we bring chairs and quasi-tailgate out there (I’d definitely do that!). Local traffic can still come through, albeit at 5 mph, so it’s not completely closed off. Anyone have any insight here?

      • Boris says:

        I think it would be assinine for people to sit in chairs in the street. The street is not totally closed. If any vehicles have to get through there, the risk of people getting hit are magnified if they’re sitting down and slow to react. It’s dangerous enough to have people milling about in a disorganized manner in a street. The only safe way is to tatally close the street which I’m absolutely not in favor of. As my father used to say: You can’t be half-pregnant.

      • Johnny says:

        Yes, in the first iteration of WEA Open Streets, there were groups of people who would put chairs out and eat and drink as you suggested. I would also see a father and son throwing a football. One time there was even a father and son shooting hoops on a portable basketball rim. I get some of the frustration, but personally, I love the Open Street.

    44. Ken says:

      The question people should be asking isn’t “Is an Open Street necessary here?” but rather “Is it necessary for West End Avenue to be a place entirely for cars?”

      Just because it’s been this way for decades doesn’t make it right or the best use of precious public space. I can’t speak for the organizers, but I view the Open Street as an opportunity to reimagine WEA as a neighborhood street rather than a dangerous north-south traffic artery, a place where the community can discover what’s possible to bring to life in a shared space that is much safer than the current use.

      A lot of great things happened there in the past six months. I look forward to more.

      • Paul says:

        Most streets along the Avenue have about 350 housing units on them. Service and delivery vehicles are ubiquitous.
        Taxis cruise the Avenue regularly (they came back as soon as the street barricades were taken away). Why? The residents patronize them.

        So no, the Avenue is not and never was just about cars.

        • Jay says:

          Red herring.
          The open street prevents none of those things from happening. Never the case before and won’t be the case in the future.

          Vehicles only had to yield to people and go slow. Some people couldn’t handle that simple fact for some reason.

          • Paul says:

            My point was that “Ken’s” statement about WEA being solely for cars was wrong. You’re not contradicting that.

            Again, I live on WEA and I know what I see daily.
            The taxis disappeared during the open street and immediately reappeared when the barriers were removed.
            The average block will continue to get scores of deliveries and service calls a day and if drivers are totally blocked (which wasn’t the case before) barriers will be displaced routinely, and cars will follow.

    45. Fed Up with UWS says:

      I live lower down on West End and this caused massive traffic on Broadway and Riverside. How can a bunch of private citizens just decide to shut their streets? This is absolutely absurd and there are plenty of open spaces for people to walk and recreate. I saw no one using the open streets and all it did was cause a traffic nuisance.

    46. LK says:

      UWS has become proving ground for non-rational (other word caused the post to be censored ) ideas. Putting sex offenders next to school? Let’s try it on UWS. Reserving spaces in screened schools for students with 1s? Let’s try it on UWS. Using streets for pedestrian zones next to park? Let’s try it on UWS. We should take it up a notch – things are not crazy enough! Maybe we can combine the ideas above? Reserve school seats for sex offenders? Have delivery bikes ride on the sidewalk? Wait – that one is implemented already…

    47. Noel says:

      I enjoyed the open street and walked often.
      Experienced some problems with careless drivers or
      some who violated the rules and continued to ignore the
      restrictions.
      Had no authority to consult or report license plates of
      Probem drivers.
      Im willing to assist with setting up or removing barriers

    48. Ellen Shell says:

      Can the electric bicycles and scooter still do whatever they want because they are not governed by any laws? They can be dangerous!

    49. Nevets K says:

      Language creates.
      We need to call this plan “Closed Streets,” as the street will be CLOSED to some traffic (but not to bikes, electric bikes, scooters electric scooters,Revels…) Perhaps a more accurate moniker would be “Expanded Sidewalks.” Not as “exciting,” I agree. But definitely not the doublethink of “Open Streets.”

    50. My 2 cents says:

      If the barricades are being doubled then how will cars get through for local traffic? No car service driver will get out of his car to move a barricade. When this happened during the pandemic people were not able to get to doctor appointments. Elderly and sick people may not have the strength to walk to where cabs can reach them. I hope this program never extends beyond weekends. As it is it seems fairly ridiculous to me. It also seems potentially dangerous to pit neighbor against neighbor in terms of enforcement. Good luck.

    51. David says:

      I echo most of the comments – THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! What is CB7 thinking? Linda Rosenthal? You certainly didn’t ask the residents what they thought. Major disconnect.

    52. Colman says:

      These are the same fellow citizen “volunteers “that voted Di Blasio for a first and second term. Your not going to get volunteers on a cold morning to tell a guy driving 25 mph on an e bike to slow down.