NYC Adds Play Street To National-Leading Open Streets Initiative

July 24, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced Play Streets, a new initiative to provide families with safe, structured activities on 12 Open Streets during weekdays, in partnership with the Fresh Air Fund, Building Healthy Communities, and the Police Athletic League. The Administration is also continuing the expansion of its nation-leading Open Streets program, moving the City further toward the goal of 100 miles laid out in late April, while removing some underused locations in coordination with local elected officials and community partners.

“Young people deserve the chance to play freely in their neighborhoods while staying safe from COVID-19, and Play Streets will go a long way toward easing the burden of summer unlike any other,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Rebuilding a fairer and better city means using our urban landscape creatively, and I’m proud to build on the success of our Open Streets program by finding exciting and productive uses for city streets.”

At Play Streets locations, children will participate in independent crafting and art projects that include making kaleidoscopes, birdhouses, rhythm drums, and cloud climbers. Giant board games such as Connect 4 and Jenga will also be available. Sports drills will include basketball, frisbee, softball, Wiffle ball, kickball, and laser tag. Reading corners, dance classes, cardio and yoga exercises will also be provided. Street Lab, an NYC-based nonprofit that creates outdoor furniture and programming for public space, is providing 160 custom benches, and a new no-touch obstacle course called PLAY NYC. All programming is creatively designed to meet social distancing guidelines.

“As Open Streets continues to grow, providing New Yorkers with space to walk, bike, cool off, and enjoy outdoor dining, we are now proud to roll out Play Streets for children and their families in some of the City’s most COVID-impacted neighborhoods,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Thanks to Mayor de Blasio for his leadership and to our Play Streets partners, including the Fresh Air Fund, Building Healthy Communities, the Police Athletic League and the Central Family Life Center.”

“Streets are meant to connect people to each other. The expansion of Open Streets demonstrates how we can continue to reimagine and transform our roads to better serve New Yorkers, keep our air cleaner with less polluting vehicles, and stay safer during the summer heatwaves,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “The program announced today allows our young people to reengage the outdoors, their neighborhoods, and their communities.”

“The global pandemic has hit working families of color disproportionately hard, and our kids still need safe, active spaces for play within their communities,” said Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety Executive Director Renita Francois. “We’re grateful to Mayor de Blasio, the Department of Transportation, the Police Athletic League, and the Fresh Air Fund for their partnership in opening our streets for young New Yorkers to enjoy their neighborhoods this summer.”

Play Streets locations will launch on a rolling basis beginning next week and will operate Monday through Friday through September 4th, 2020. Hours vary by location, but will generally be from 10 AM to 5 PM and include streets adjacent to NYCHA developments as part of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. Vehicles are not permitted to enter the streets during the hours of the full street closure. Organizing Partners will be responsible for setting up barricades and posting signage, as well as restoring the Open Street condition at the end of their programming. They will also post No Parking signage with days and times ahead of starting their activations.

Under Open Streets, pedestrians and cyclists are free to use the roadbed of each street. No through traffic is permitted, with remaining vehicle traffic limited to local deliveries, pick-ups/drop-offs, necessary city service, utility, and emergency vehicles only. Such drivers are alerted to be hyper-vigilant and to drive at 5 MPH along these routes. Regular Open Streets operate from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, with timing varying slightly depending on staff availability.

“Children in New York City need to be able to play outside in safe spaces now more than ever. The Fresh Air Fund is excited to serve children citywide as part of the new Open Streets: Play Streets program,” said Fatima Shama, executive director of The Fresh Air Fund. “On open streets across the city, Fresh Air Summer Spaces will provide opportunities for art, movement and recreation activities that will have children engaged within their communities, following all physical-distancing guidelines, and experiencing some of the joys of summer amid these challenging times.”

“This is a unique moment to stand up for NYC kids, giving them a place to play and learn, while also expanding our city’s sense of what’s possible for streets and public space,” said Leslie Davol, Executive Director of Street Lab. “We’re all in, and we’re proud to play a role in supporting play streets.”

“The Police Athletic League is grateful for the City’s support in allowing us to provide safe recreational activities for youth this summer. PAL feels it is important to provide safe recreational options for young people, and our Play Street model allows us to do that. Health and safety for our participants and staff is our highest priority. We are looking forward to serving young people this summer,” said Frederick J. Watts, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League.

If you have questions about Open Streets or would like to request an Open Street in your community, please contact your NYC DOT Borough Commissioner’s office.

Photo credit: 116th Street trolly rails 1900.

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