Prospect Heights

[Press Release] Elected officials, community organizations and civic groups call for City roadmap to equitable, sustainable and permanent Open Streets 

May 6, 2023

“Future Streets” rally highlights high bar for new Open Streets, and heavy volunteer commitment to operate current ones using temporary solutions

BROOKLYN, NY, May 6, 2023: Community organizations sponsoring New York City Open Streets gathered with elected officials and advocates for a rally that both celebrated the success of a program that creates new public space from streets, and also demanded City action to address operational burdens that limit its expansion and threaten its sustainability. Organizers presented a vision for “Future Streets” that add vibrant public spaces, promote economic growth, increase traffic safety, and reduce carbon emissions—and which are accessible to all neighborhoods regardless of income and community resources.

“For many months each year, everyday New Yorkers work miracles — they transform traffic-clogged streets into oases of joy, community, and culture,” said Jackson Chabot, Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Open Plans. “But the City’s overreliance on this volunteer labor threatens the program’s equity and sustainability. Today we’re asking the City to strengthen its commitment to Open Streets. More operational support will lead to better managed Open Streets, more joyful programming, and Open Streets cropping up in new neighborhoods across the city.”

On Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn, Open Streets helped dozens of restaurants survive COVID-19 restrictions, and has since become a neighborhood treasure. “Each of the 86 days we’ll run Vanderbilt Avenue Open Streets this year, we’ll be creating two and a half acres of temporary public open space,” said Gib Veconi, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “But doing that with 90 metal barriers and 100 traffic cones requires an enormous amount of labor, and comes with real operating challenges. For streets like Vanderbilt Avenue to be sustainable, the City must move quickly to replace the provisional tools that emerged during the pandemic with permanent and safe infrastructure.” 

Rally organizers called on the City to:

  • provide sufficient funding for the equipment community groups need to launch new Open Streets, as well as the staff needed to operate, maintain and monitor temporary gateways, and to ensure safe operations;
  • identify successful Open Streets at an early stage, and be able to fund and implement “light touch” street improvements that help improve safety and reduce the operating labor required; and
  • commit to continuing capital investment for necessary infrastructure work to make Open Streets permanent, as well as funding and capacity-building assistance to support community partners as their focus shifts from the labor of maintaining temporary open space to the stewardship of permanent public space.

“The Vanderbilt Avenue Open Street isn’t just a local gem, it’s a borough-wide and City-wide treasure. It’s a space that brings our neighbors together and illustrates the power of community, ” said Council Member Crystal Hudson. “The role the Vanderbilt Open Street has played in ensuring the survival of our local businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overstated. Since then, the program has continued to be a boon for businesses and an asset for neighbors of all ages. But this success hasn’t come easy. And in order to maintain this vibrant, local gem, we need to ensure deeper investments from the City—today and always.”

“Open Streets have reimagined our neighborhoods for the better,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll. To sustain this community benefit, New York City must fund and professionalize the program so that all New Yorkers can enjoy this wonderful experience.”

Said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, “Most Brooklyn residents don’t own a car. The City has a responsibility to make sure they have the right to decide how their streets ought to serve them. That’s especially urgent given citywide concerns about increasing traffic violence and impacts of climate change.”

“Without Open Streets, our bar would have closed during the pandemic,” said Chris Maestro of BierWax, a Black-owned craft beer bar on Vanderbilt Avenue. “Instead, we were not only able to stay in business, but actually increase revenue and add a new location.”

“Open Streets has given us the opportunity to grow our business by 50% with the additional seating,” said Ahktar Nawab, chef and partner of Vanderbilt Avenue restaurant Alta Calidad.  “The added revenue from Open Streets not only got us through the pandemic but continues to help our business and allows us to employ more folks from the surrounding community, as well as offer security to our long standing staff. I am not sure we could survive without it.” 

​​“The Open Streets program is one that gives back New Yorkers the space and access to their streets and ‘Future Streets’ is reminding us that we haven’t achieved our vision yet,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “Open Streets brings us spaces within our communities that are centered around people, not cars. It’s time for Mayor Adams to commit to this amazing program and create a permanent investment in this program to ensure its longevity.”

“Open Streets is one of our City’s greatest program ideas, as one of the only public programs in New York City that reclaims streets for public use. But unless we invest in it, the program will not reach its full potential,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I’m proud to stand in solidarity with hundreds of community voices to demand the Administration ensure the Open Streets program succeeds. From funding to infrastructure, so much can be done to give our communities access to miles of public space every summer.”

“The positive impact that the Open Streets program has had on neighborhoods across New York City is undeniable. By pedestrianizing spaces and opening our streets to people, we have unlocked so much creativity and made our communities stronger and more vibrant. Passing the legislation that created the permanent Open Streets program is one of my proudest accomplishments during my tenure. I look forward to working with advocates and colleagues to reduce barriers to participation and improve support from the City,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“Open Streets and Open Restaurants have been a gift to expanding and rethinking our public spaces, and generating new and exciting ways for neighbors to come together to create community. I am committed to helping craft sustainable models that allow these programs to thrive for decades to come,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler.

“In order to achieve the public safety outcomes we all need and deserve, it is vital that we invest in Future Streets,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “This is how we reduce traffic deaths, how we create welcoming community spaces where neighbors can get to know one another and create safety in numbers, how we build a fibrous neighborhood of upstanders where everyone has everyone else’s back, and how we guarantee a sustainable environment that is hospitable to future generations of New Yorkers.”

“As co-founders of the Alfresco NYC Coalition, Regional Plan Association has been proud to support community groups and small businesses across the City during one of the most tragic times in our history,” said Maulin Mehta, New York Director, Regional Plan Association. “The Open Streets program provided invaluable amenities to neighborhoods to create social connections, provide recreation, and realize new opportunities for our streets. Vanderbilt Avenue is one of the clearest examples of the success of this program, and we thank PHNDC for their incredible dedication to this work. More dedicated support is needed, especially for groups that are just starting out or in communities that do not have the luxury of resources or volunteers. We look forward to working with PHNDC, Open Plans and our other partners to help realize a more permanent extension of the Open Streets program citywide.” 

“We know that Open Streets are also safer streets,” said Juan Restrepo, Director of Organizing at Transportation Alternatives. “They make our city a cleaner, better, more vibrant place to live — and city leaders should be doing everything possible to support, maintain, and expand the Open Streets program, especially outside of Manhattan.”

“Until recently, programs for our Bronx youth were not just scarce but inaccessible. The Open Streets program meets this need during the crucial period after school and outside of school time hours by creating a place where youth feel safe and have positive enrichment opportunities. In addition, this program helps our youth grow by boosting their character and motivation to improve,” said Lonnie Hardy, Director of Caldwell Enrichment Program Inc. “We are pleased that the Open Street Program centers people instead of parking cars, and hope that this administration and DOT continue to provide the financial support to reimagine our streets.” 

“Open Streets are for all! Therefore, it’s critical that our city prioritizes underserved communities and provides the resources needed to make the program equitable and successful no matter where you live,” said the Board of the 31st Ave Open Street Collective, Inc.

“In a crowded city, Open Streets are our “love language” for expressing NYC’s support for economic growth, safety for all, and accessible, fair use of public spaces. Yet, three years after they launched, Open Streets are still stuck with provisional, emergency measures like flimsy barriers, while simple improvements like planters and paint seem stuck in traffic,” said Cecil Scheib, Avenue B Open Street Co-Organizer. “Let’s put our effort into what we value — health, safety, equity, and economic benefits — and make our Open Streets better, now.”

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About PHNDC: Since its founding in 2004, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) has been the leading civic organization providing advocacy for neighborhood-wide issues on behalf of the residents and businesses of Prospect Heights. Its programs have engaged and received the support of thousands of community members in Prospect Heights and its environs. For more information, visit

About Open Plans: Founded in 1999, Open Plans’ mission is to transform how people experience New York City’s streets. It uses grassroots advocacy, policy change, and targeted journalism to push for structural reforms and cultural shifts. The organization promotes a people-first street culture that prioritizes community, safety, joy, mobility, and empowerment.

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