A petition launched by the volunteer group North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition is calling on the city to make the vehicle-free zones on Berry Street and Driggs Avenue permanent.

“Berry Street has flourished as a non-commercialized public space for all to enjoy,” the petition states; “reductions on Driggs Ave and Russell St have brought sanity to McGolrick Park and provided safe spaces to exercise.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last spring that 100 miles of pedestrian only streets would roll out in NYC during 2020 to provide extra recreational space for people during the pandemic. While there is no official end date for the city’s Open Streets initiative, NBOSCC is asking for Berry Street from Broadway to N 12 Street and Driggs Avenue from Meeker Avenue to Monitor Street to remain permanently open for pedestrians and cyclists only.

“When we see people who are signing the petitions and we look at the addresses, it’s overwhelmingly people in these neighborhoods who it’s directly affecting,” said NBOSCC volunteer Clara Smith, who enjoys her morning routine checking in on the barriers with neighbors.

“This has been a great part of my daily life, in a time when I otherwise would not meet new people.” she said. “I wake up early every morning, get outside and get to walk for 15 minutes chatting with someone who I otherwise would have no contact with.”

Other NBOSCC volunteers such as Berry Street resident Nick Hopmann say that safety for the people who utilize the car-free thoroughfares is a motivating factor to keep the streets permanently open.

“Cars, and especially delivery trucks, who get on Berry at North 12th can go very fast,” Hopmann said. “Pedestrians are often unaware that those streets are actually open to automobile traffic and having to deal with speeds that are quite intense there.”

The volunteer group set up a table on Berry Street last weekend to meet with and inform neighbors on the open streets, and to gain more signatures for the petition.

Senator Julia Salazar endorsed NBOSC’s petition in a tweet stating: “We deserve to have safe, open and clean public space.”

To make the streets in Greenpoint and WIlliamsburg permanetly open, the petition also asks for the Dept. Of Transportation to alternate traffic directions every other block on Driggs Avenue and Berry Street. Here’s the full list of requests:

• Make a public commitment and continue this pilot program into the Summer of 2021.
• Work with community stakeholders to make Berry, Driggs, Nassau, and Russell permanent open streets.
• Provide financial and material resources for the continued maintenance and logistics of a volunteer-led open streets program.

Additionally, parking and through traffic should be immediately minimized. To best do this, we suggest the following strategies:
• On every other block, alternate the direction of traffic on Berry and Driggs. Neither of these streets should be through streets.
• Convert the Meeker/Driggs/Morgan Ave island into a plaza
• Large detour signs and planters be provided at major intersections informing drivers these are no longer through streets.

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