By Bobby Panza
Break out the sidewalk chalk and giant chess boards, Columbus Avenue Open Streets returns this Sunday, September 3, and continues every Sunday through October 29th. From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Columbus Avenue from West 68th to West 77th Streets will be closed to cars so people can cruise and use the avenue traffic-free.
Open Streets starts later this year, because the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), which sponsors the program, didn’t want it to conflict with the opening of the American Museum of Natural History’s Gilder Center in May. “We wanted to give neighbors time to adjust to the new normal of Columbus Avenue,” a spokesperson for the BID emailed West Side Rag. This season, Open Streets will have more traffic guards, with two stationed at 79th Street to ensure the safety of pedestrians at that busy intersection and alleviate unnecessary honking.
“Open Streets was a game changer for us last summer,” said Martin Johnson, manager of 67 Gourmet, located at 194 Columbus Avenue between West 68th and 69th Streets. The small artisanal cheese shop opened in January, 2022 and, according to Johnson, “business is booming,” in part, because of Open Streets. It was there that 67 Gourmet introduced their “tasting table” outside the shop. Johnson calls it “cheese-shop outreach.” He currently recommends their Twig Farm Goat Tomme, a semi-soft cheese from Vermont, with gentle herbal overtones of sorrel and thyme and an earthy finish.
You can also listen to live music from the Victor Neufeld Band outside Manny’s Bistro at 225 Columbus Avenue between West 70th and 71st Streets. Neufeld, the former executive producer of “20/20” and “The Early Show” with over 20 Emmys to his name, is the lead singer of a musical ensemble known to attract special guests, including opera singer James Valenti and iconic actor (and local resident) Tony Danza, who’s a friend of Manny Colon, the bistro’s owner.
“Sundays are my favorite day of the week,” said Colon, who’s known to sing a few numbers himself. “Everybody is just so full of life. Open Streets creates something special in the neighborhood. Kids are playing in the street with no traffic, people are dancing, there are all kinds of festivities that are great for everybody.” Music will play outside Manny’s Bistro from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Here’s a quick look at what else is planned for Sunday and the rest of the season:
Sunday, September 3:
- Fire hydrant sprinkler – Columbus and 72nd Street
- Arts & crafts table at Paper Source (309 Columbus Avenue between W 74 and 75 treet) 12 p.m.
- Free samples and treats for sale at Nuts Factory (284 Columbus Avenue between W 73 and 74 Street)
- Eileen Fisher Renew Pop-in (341 Columbus Avenue between W 76 and 77 Street) from 12-4 p.m.
- Games, music, activities, and more throughout Open Streets
Later in the season:
- New York Circus Project Fall Cabaret – 9/17, 10/1,
- Shop Local Day – 10/15
- Pioneer Block Party – 10/22
- Halloween Dog Costume Parade/Contest – 10/29
The Columbus Avenue BID encourages members of the community to let them know how they want to use the space. Check out the website here. For performances, meetups, or tables for an organization, sign up to use Open Streets here.
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