Nothing succeeds like success.
The presidents of Brooklyn and Queens are urging the city to share the love of the popular Manhattan-only “Summer Streets” program with the most populous boroughs – an idea that immediately inflamed activists.
“Each year we see how much New Yorkers enjoy the Car-Free Street and associated activities, and we write to ask you to bring this beloved event to our respective boroughs in 2023,” Antonio jointly wrote. Reynoso and Donovan Richards to the Transport Commissioner. Ydanis Rodriguez last week. “Given that over 300,000 New Yorkers benefit from this annual event in Manhattan, we believe there is demand to expand to the boroughs.”
The couple framed the proposed expansion as a matter of equity and fairness: “As advocates for open space and fairness in transportation, we believe this is an opportunity to achieve much more of New Yorkers who may not be able to easily access Manhattan,” the officials wrote. in the letter of September 2.
The DOT told Streetsblog that it will review the request and discuss possible expansion plans with affected parties.
Summer Streets spans a mile-long car-free corridor from the Brooklyn Bridge north along Center Street, Lafayette Street and Park Avenue for half a day on three Saturdays in August – and that’s maybe- to be the most popular thing the DOT does all year. Since its inception 14 years ago, the program has taken off — and walks, bikes, tumbles, stretches, wears makeup and dances, bringing thousands of New Yorkers to the streets in a joyful parade and impromptu that spans half the length of Manhattan.
Another spectacular success #SummerStreets today, with eight miles along Manhattan’s car-free East Side, filled with NYers walking, rolling, biking and scootering.
Next year, let’s make it happen *every* weekend of the summer! pic.twitter.com/XGGXz1okOk
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) August 20, 2022
The program took a hiatus during the pandemic, but came back stronger: it has expanded two miles, to 109th Street in East Harlem, providing more than eight miles of car-free streets – although it does not has not extended the days and hours, as many have long hoped.
Proponents have argued that New York can certainly do better – especially as Montreal, Paris, Bogata and other cities routinely maintain long stretches of car-free roads all day each summer.
“Next year, let’s make this happen *every* weekend of the summer!” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine tweeted.
As one of the terminuses of Summer Streets in Manhattan is the Brooklyn Bridge, some Brooklynites began to dream of having it continue on the Brooklyn Bridge Bike Path, then Atlantic Avenue, then Fourth Avenue to in Bay Ridge. In Queens, the pedestrian street could cross the Queensboro Bridge and easily connect to Northern Boulevard.
“Whose streets? Our streets! Or at least they should be,” said Brooklyn cycling activist and parent leader Justin Krebs. “Summer Streets gives us another way of looking at our city, a way that prioritizes a diverse range of uses and needs above vehicular traffic and allows us to imagine and experience New York from a different way. But less theoretical and more practical: it simply gives our children places to play, allows us to stretch our legs and gives us the possibility of going outside without leaving the city. It’s room to breathe it’s a way to build community, and it’s a little more living room in a city where the summer can be sweltering.
“It’s also a great way for more parents to have the chance to teach their kids to ride a bike,” Krebs continued. “Not everyone can easily transport their bike to a park, so the more places to learn, the more future riders, the better for everyone.”
Juan Restrepo, a Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that “it is high time that Mayor Adams expands the program beyond a few hours over a few days in a single borough,” adding, “at a minimum, he should be summer streets in each borough, for many more hours, in a network that connects to protected cycle lanes, greenways and bridges.
And, importantly, Summer Streets is cheap at city program prices.
The DOT declined to provide an aggregate figure for the program’s total operational costs which are split among multiple departments, but said it is allocating $500,000 to produce Summer Streets, which covers event planning, staffing and Entrepreneur’s Day programming. Sponsors also inject funds to help defray programming costs.
The Sanitation Department, which cleans up before and after the Summer Streets events, spent $70,825 on such activities last year, according to a spokesperson. The NYPD did not respond to a request to quantify its operational role. Many officers patrol the course of the almost entirely crime-free event.
One of the lawyers said he was “delighted” to see the letter beeps.
“Summer Streets is a hugely popular program, and New Yorkers outside of Manhattan deserve to enjoy it, too,” said Jackson Chabot, director of public space advocacy for Open Plans (a sister organization to Streetsblog). “Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are in particular need of these safe and joyful spaces, so expanding the program would fill a much needed gap. We are energized by this administration’s East Harlem expansion; now we need to expand Summer Streets beyond Manhattan.
– with reporting by Christopher Robbins