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Pedestrian Walk

NYC Council Passes Law Mandating Bold Open Streets Program

While COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted throughout the state, New York City Council has passed a bill to keep and strengthen the pandemic-era Open Streets program, as reported by Streetsblog New York City.

The bill, Int. 1933-A, was enacted May 13, 2021, requiring the following:

  • The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) must provide street space to pedestrians and other non-motorists;
  • Open streets must be managed by either DOT or community organizations;
  • DOT must either manage or provide resources for 20 open street sites in underserved areas, then in other areas as available; and
  • DOT must reevaluate open streets each year to address issues and any needed changes.

The bill is an updated and revised version of Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s proposed Open Streets legislation from last year. Initially, it aimed to provide New Yorkers with enough space to properly follow social distancing guidelines amid the pandemic.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio curbed this City Council legislation with the enactment of his own 100-mile Open Streets plan just two months into the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Mayor de Blasio’s plan has yet to reach the 100-mile goal—only about 60 miles have been completed. To ensure that the Open Streets program would not phase out with COVID-19 restrictions, Councilmember Rivera improved upon and revived her bill.

Many of the items in Int. 1933-A are already within DOT’s power. The main difference is the bill aims to ensure that neighborhoods without robust volunteer and fundraising resources will not be left out of the Open Streets program. In addition, it allows for the operation of open streets 24/7, a significant change from the former 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours of operation. Thus, except for emergencies, these streets will be permanently closed to all vehicles.

Per Streetsblog New York City, the bill is supported by DOT, Mayor de Blasio, and 67% of New Yorkers.

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