Photo Courtesy of Comptroller Stringer’s Office
“Why end an initiative that generates critical income for restaurants, keeps workers employed and allows New Yorkers to spend time safely outdoors?” Comptroller Stringer asked.
By Forum Staff
City Comptroller Scott Stringer and State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-East Elmhurst) on Thursday called on the City to extend the Open Streets program year-round for pedestrians, cyclists, and restaurants and expand OS to allow the small-business and retail community to offer more goods and services outside. Stringer and Ramos spotlighted the success of the program, which is offering a crucial mechanism for exercise, recreation, revenue-generation and safe outdoor dining amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The joint letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the need to continue the program at least through the duration of the pandemic and to repurpose street space for community and business use, not just automobiles.
“The Open Streets program helped revive our City after the darkest days of the pandemic, and this is exactly the kind of creativity and smart urban planning we need now to jumpstart our economic recovery,” Stringer said. “Why end an initiative that generates critical income for restaurants, keeps workers employed and allows New Yorkers to spend time safely outdoors? Instead, we should extend the Open Streets Program year-round, provide guidance around heat lamps and other ways to adapt for cooler weather, and expand the program so that more small businesses and retail establishments can participate. We need to do everything we can to get our businesses back on their feet, get New Yorkers back to work and encourage everyone to eat and shop locally, especially as we head into the holiday season. Expanding the Open Streets program is a no-brainer and I urge the City to double down on its success.”
The joint missive also pointed to the fact that closing the successful program at the end of October will not only deprive New Yorkers of safe, outdoor spaces to dine and enjoy the outdoors, but also directly hurt small businesses and marginalized communities of color that rely on this program to survive. New York has lost more than 2,800 small businesses to the pandemic and could risk losing tens of thousands more with the cessation of the program. Additionally, 62 percent of small businesses are immigrant-owned, and 73 percent of small business employees are Black, indigenous, and people of color.
The program “is already being scaled back without warning in some areas and is scheduled to be closed down entirely by the end of October. It makes no sense to forfeit these vital public spaces, especially as the pandemic and the need for social distancing continues,” the elected officials wrote.
“Streets are for people, not cars,” Ramos added. “The Open Streets program has been a lifeline during the pandemic, creating safe havens for our neighbors to enjoy fresh air and support restaurants. As we work to help small businesses recover and strengthen our economy the right way, we’ll need more Open Streets, not fewer. The City should extend and expand the program to spur growth for our small businesses and help our communities thrive.”