New Yorkers will be able to safely stroll and bike on more than seven miles of city streets starting May 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced. The rollout comes as part of the city’s pledge to open up to 100 miles of roads to promote socially distant recreation.
Of the first 7.2 miles of that initiative, 4.5 miles will be within parks and an additional 2.7 will be adjacent to city green spaces. The streets were selected in consultation with the NYPD and FDNY to ensure emergency and delivery vehicles can still pass through, but were mainly chosen to ensure New Yorkers gathering at parks don’t bottleneck on nearby streets.
“The open streets are going to be another way we help encourage social distancing because the warmer weather tells us we’re going to have a new challenge,” de Blasio said at a Friday press conference. “We want to expand the parks out, if you will.”
De Blasio initially announced plans to open streets on May 4, but with warm weather in the weekend forecast, that timeline was pushed forward to Saturday, the mayor announced on Twitter late Friday.
See a full list of the streets opening in and near parks below:
In April, de Blasio announced an agreement with the New York City Council to open up at least 40 miles of streets in May, with the ultimate goal of 100 miles in the coming months. The undertaking will also roll out temporary bike lanes and expand sidewalks into parking lanes using deployable barricades, according to City Hall. The Council says it will begin identifying additional streets with communities in the coming weeks.
The move came after the mayor was hit with a barrage of criticism from transportation advocates and elected officials including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced a bill to open 75 miles of roads and vowed to work with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on an open streets plan if the mayor did not give New Yorkers more space to socially distance.
“Today is a great first step and an exciting day for an entire city starved of adequate open space,” said Johnson. “While we continue our fight against this awful virus, we need to give people the space they need to maintain proper social distancing, and I’m glad we’re making progress towards that goal.”
New York City briefly experimented with a car-free pilot program on a handful of blocks in March. But the program was cut short only 11 days after its launch with de Blasio citing low usage and NYPD staff shortages. Now that more NYPD officers are returning to work after recovering from COVID-19, the mayor believes a roll out of open streets is more feasible.
“This is going to be well protected and well regulated space, and that’s why we have to do this in stages to get it right,” de Blasio said. “That’s the beginning and we will expand from there.”