Statement: With Playgrounds Closed, NYC Needs Car-Free Streets Even More Urgently

Statement of Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris and Bike New York Director of Communications Jon Orcutt:
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

“Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced the closing of playgrounds across New York City. These closures are necessary for public safety during the coronavirus pandemic. They also add urgency to provide more space for those New Yorkers who must be out to safely ensure six feet of physical distance.

With the closure of 2,067 playgrounds, every neighborhood in the city is losing critical open space. We call on Mayor de Blasio to create an immediate, city-wide expansion of the open streets pilot he launched last week. Just as every family in New York deserves access to a nearby playground in ordinary times, this crisis demands rapid action to create an extensive network of emergency open streets, accessible to more New Yorkers.

Last week, we put forth suggestions for the types of streets that the City should consider opening to pedestrians and cyclists. These suggestions still stand -- with 6,000+ miles of streets in New York City, there is a lot of room to build on the 1.6 mile open streets pilot that Mayor de Blasio launched last week.

We appreciate the efforts to date from Mayor de Blasio and NYC DOT and fully acknowledge the challenge of this moment. Fortunately, the City already has a way for residents to close their own streets to traffic -- the same mechanism that allows street closures for block parties. In addition to taking immediate action to close as many streets to non-emergency vehicular traffic as possible, we call on the mayor to allow residents on streets adjacent to shuttered playgrounds to apply for repeat and expedited closure permits to implement these emergency open streets themselves.

Providing residents access to open space that allows for social distancing is critical to public safety. We support our City partners in securing this needed space for New Yorkers during this challenging time.”