DOT Commissioner Aims to Provide Pedestrians, Diners, and Children with Some Car-Free, Safe Roadways
By Yehudit Garmaise
Could the expansion of the Open Streets and Open Restaurants Programs recreate some of the safety of New York City’s streets in the early 1900s, when roadways were places where children could play and adults could walk and gather?
As NYC officials continue to make more space for people and less space for cars on the city’s roadways by expanding the pandemic-era programs this summer, the city’s transportation commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, who oversees both the Open Restaurants and Open Streets programs, said, "The message to all New Yorkers is that our streets don’t belong to car owners only.”
Rodriguez, who said city leaders have sought for years to "reinvent and repurpose the use of our streets,” wants to create more neighborhood promenades for outdoor gatherings and spaces where parents can teach children how to rollerblade, toss a ball, and ride bicycles, Fox5NY reported.
Although indoor dining resumed in New York City on May 31, 2021, with summer coming, the city is expanding its Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs, which replace roadways for vehicular traffic and parking with walkways for pedestrians and outdoor spaces for restaurants to serve diners.
During the months of pandemic lockdown in 2020, the Open Streets program provided cooped-up New Yorkers with more space to walk: particularly along business corridors where increased foot traffic could help struggling businesses.
The Open Restaurants program also not only provided New Yorkers with the opportunities to go out to eat during the pandemic, but New York City officials and restaurateurs both say that explosion of outdoor dining shacks, which multiplied from 1,200 pre-pandemic to 12,000 during its height, helped save the jobs of more than 100,000 workers by allowing diners back to restaurant tables.