COVID Recovery ∙ Transportation

Funding Open Streets to be a Permanent, More Equitable Program

The Open Streets Program has been a transformative, community-led effort to creatively repurpose underutilized public space through the pandemic. Even as the City recovers, Open Streets has become a key fixture in communities’ infrastructure, boosting businesses and providing families and friends more space to congregate. A Yang Administration would make Open Streets a permanent, more equitable, and well funded program, serving communities across all five boroughs.

Andrew Yang would:

Make Open Streets permanent. Last spring, the city, led by the Department of Transportation (DOT), opened up dozens of streets across the five boroughs to provide room for recreation and outdoor dining during the pandemic. A Yang administration will make the program permanent, as was called for by Transportation Alternatives and several other groups in a recent letter to the Mayor’s Office.

Provide funding and resources - such as french barricades, benches, and signage - to support local community groups and BIDs overseeing their local Open Streets programming. Currently, Open Streets is largely decentralized and volunteer-driven.  A Yang administration will provide funding so that Open Streets programming does not have to solely rely on local donations, empowering neighborhoods and communities with fewer resources to take advantage of the program. 

In addition, a Yang administration will work with community groups to expand the times and days Open Streets are, in fact, open.

Dedicate DOT, Park Department or other city personnel to Open Streets in neighborhoods that do not have BIDs, established community groups, or dedicated volunteer support for Open Streets. While several Open Streets have strong community engagement and local volunteer organizers, many do not. The Department of Transportation will provide the resources and workers needed to block off the street, arrange barricades, and work with neighborhoods to tailor the hours and days that the streets should be open.

Create a simple application process with automatic annual renewals for existing and new streets. Neighborhood groups should not have to go through a bureaucratic mess to maintain or open an Open Street. Once a group has registered with the DOT, there will be automatic renewals. Only the hours and days will need to be updated with the DOT so there is a central website providing current information for interested individuals and businesses.

Make Open Streets more equitable and expand the program. According to Streetsblog, residents by Open Streets have higher incomes than those not close to Open Streets. To that end, several neighborhoods, including in Staten Island and the Bronx, lack access to this new program. A Yang administration will expand the program to such locations within the first year.

Pursue street transformations to make Open Streets a permanent fixture. From retractable bollards to planters to fully pedestrianizing streets, a Yang administration will look to transform streets in each borough to reflect their uses beyond car traffic. This proposal follows Yang’s past calls to develop superblocks as has been successfully done in Barcelona.

Provide new opportunities for restaurants along Open Streets. Open Streets provides a great opportunity to also bolster support for local restaurants and bars. The Yang campaign has previously released proposals for “lending” outdoor adjacent space to restaurants. Already, on Vanderbilt Ave, restaurants saw a 54% increase in customer visits for restaurants compared to the month before the initiative started.