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: email@example.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.