Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio from the Open Streets Coalition

[Executive Director’s Note – For the last year, BetaNYC has used its technical and analytical talents to support various COVID-19 relief activities. We support NYC’s Open Streets programs because we are neighbors who care about our ecological future and believe in safe and quiet streets. We see them as places for play, breath, and exercise. Whenever we look at the data, we see that New York City would be a healthier, quieter, and more equitable place if we redesign the street for people.

We support North Brooklyn Open Streets Community coalition by providing leadership, technical and logistical support. For other open streets, we provide open data analysis and allow our staff to work in their community. Through our partnerships and boots-on-the-ground knowledge, we have a comprehensive Open Streets digital toolkit to help communities manage volunteer recruitment, scheduling, and service requests. If you are interested in learning more about our analytical or technical support, fill out a RADAR, and we will get back to you.]

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

We’re members of the Open Streets Coalition, including leaders and supporters who for the past ten months have helped maintain and support Open Streets in New York City. We thank you for listening to the millions of New Yorkers yearning to breathe freely in our streets by making the Open Streets program permanent. Today, we’re asking you to ensure that the Open Streets we enjoy and manage be improved and expanded equitably throughout all five boroughs.

As New York City became the epicenter of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, the need for physical distance, fresh air, and exercise to stay healthy became a pressing need for many of our communities. Open Streets not only allowed us to get outside during the first wave of the pandemic but also enabled our communities to spring back to life in the summer.

Open Streets allowed us to rethink how we use our streets, not just as space for transportation and storage of vehicles, but as space to meet our neighbors and stroll, socialize, dance, and relax safely. Prioritization for motor vehicles in our public space has resulted in thousands of senseless deaths and injuries caused by traffic violence, and respiratory illness caused by carbon pollution. By prioritizing people, our streets can instead serve as playgrounds for children, a reprieve for parents looking for fresh air, and a place for local businesses to attract more customers. In neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, they provided outdoor space in a community that lacks sufficient park space. In neighborhoods such as North Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, and others, residents and restaurants shared space that helped to save our local businesses, as well as spaces for demonstration and protest. Our streets are an essential part of a neighborhood’s way to enjoy life, to cope with the current pandemic, and our streets must be a way to help us bounce back as COVID-19 recedes.

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that these spaces continue to serve communities. While New York City is home to the biggest Open Street program in the nation, there are still neighborhoods that do not have access to this valuable program. Communities such as the South Bronx and the North Shore of Staten Island still lack corridor-wide Open Streets. Even more, some Open Streets that were open in 2020 have since been closed. While some have received confirmation that they will return this spring, the fate of others is uncertain.

Based on our experiences as community partners who support, have operated, or seek to operate Open Streets, we recommend the following to improve and expand the Open Streets program:

  • After assessment by the New York City Department of Transportation, determine which Open Streets can be shifted to 24/7 full-time operation;
  • Codify into law the reduction of the speed limit on Open Streets to five miles per hour;
  • Dedicate resources to volunteer groups that manage open streets, with an emphasis on lower-income communities, as volunteer-led Open Streets are unsustainable and inequitable;
  • Connect Open Streets into a useful transportation network, bringing residents to retail corridors, transportation hubs, and open park space;
  • Provide amenities, such as signage, benches, chairs, planters, and improved barriers, to provide for a safer and more inviting experience;
  • Implement permanent street safety measures and provide more sophisticated barriers to prevent through-traffic on Open Streets;
  • Limit and optimize commercial vehicle use, such as encouraging freight and for-hire vehicles to make pick-ups and drops on side streets, and creating loading zones to discourage double parking;
  • Provide daily programming to encourage Open Streets usage by the local community, including exercise classes, educational programming, arts and cultural performances, and more.
  • Improve traffic calming measures on Open Streets: Restaurants corridors;
  • Allow businesses in the Open Storefronts program to utilize the roadway on non-Open Streets.

We hope that these suggestions serve you as we continue fighting COVID-19 and building a safer, more liveable city. As the city recovers from the pandemic, Open Streets must be seen as a tool to maintain physical distance, a cornerstone of vibrant communities, and a priority for our city budget, newly infused with funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.


#OpenStreets Coalition, 63 local groups below

  • Transportation Alternatives
  • 34th Ave Open Street Coalition
  • 510 West 134th Tenant Association
  • 89th Street Tenants Unidos Association
  • BetaNYC, a founding member of the North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition
  • Bike New York
  • Bronx Health REACH
  • Bronxmama
  • Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
  • Ciclistas Latinoamericanos de New York
  • Court Square Civic Association
  • COVID Care Neighbor Network
  • Eastchester Gardens Resident Association
  • El Puente
  • Families for Safe Streets
  • Financial District Neighborhood Association
  • Fort Greene Open Streets Coalition
  • Friends of Cooper Park
  • Friends of Tremont Park
  • Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce
  • Guardians of Flushing Bay
  • Hall St. Open Street
  • Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association
  • Hollaback!
  • Hunters Point Parks Conservancy
  • Jackson Heights Beautification Group
  • KiDiCAL Mass NYC
  • Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club
  • Loisaida Open Streets Community Coalition (LOSCC)
  • LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens)
  • Make Brooklyn Safer
  • Make Queens Safer
  • New York League of Conservation Voters
  • North Brooklyn Mutual Aid
  • North Brooklyn Neighbors
  • North Brooklyn Stewards Initiative
  • Open Plans
  • Out Cycling Inc.
  • Out Rockaway
  • Queens Bike Initiative
  • Park To Park 103
  • Park Slope Neighbors
  • play:groundNYC
  • Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council
  • Redbeard Bikes
  • Respect Brooklyn
  • Riders Alliance
  • Safe Roads Alliance
  • St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction
  • Sixth Street Community Center
  • South Asian Fund For Education Scholarship and Training INC (SAFEST)
  • Staten Island Therapeutic Gardens
  • StreetsPAC
  • Sunnyside Woodside Open Streets (SWOS)
  • The Children’s Village
  • Together We Can Community Resource Center
  • Urban Health Plan
  • WE Bike NYC
  • West 22nd Street Open Street
  • West 134th St Block Association