In early May, a mayoral initiative called the NYC Open Streets Initiative placed barriers on hundreds of miles of streets around the city, including several streets in the Greenpoint area. The barriers stopped vehicular traffic on certain streets and allowed space for people to safely socially distance outdoors. The initiative, as explained by Mayor de Blasio was a way for New Yorkers “to safely enjoy the outdoors.” 

At first the NYPD was tasked with maintaining the open streets in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, (namely removing the barriers every night at 8 p.m. and replacing them every morning at 8 a.m.) After complaints that the police were not adequately maintaining the program, community volunteers stepped in. A slew of community organizations came together under the name the North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition (NBOSCC) and through volunteer efforts began maintaining the open streets.

There was never a set end date to the Open Streets, and in November, North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition launched a petition to keep the streets open permanently. The Coalition hoped to start a conversation with the Department of Transportation and community members about what permanent open streets might look like.

“We are passionate about making sure that the our neighborhood is safe, quiet and accessible for all,” says one of the coalition’s volunteers, Noel Hidalgo. “That is that under is the undercurrent of all of the work that we do.” 

However, some Greenpoint residents oppose the open streets. A counter petition called “Stop Open Streets from becoming a permanent fixture in Greenpoint,” is on Change.org. The petition, “is on behalf of my neighbors and car owners of Greenpoint, our voices are being silenced and we are getting increasingly worried and upset that we are not being represented in the plans for Open Streets.” Simon Edward, a Greenpoint resident and first responder, was among the signatories. Edward is a firefighter and says that he personally has had to move the barriers several times. “Every second counts sometimes, and to have to stop at every intersection to move barriers can cost someone their life,” he says. 

This is an issue members of the coalition are concerned about as well. Volunteers for the coalition were concerned by the counter petition and felt that the goals of the open streets were either misunderstood or misrepresented. 

Hidalgo says that keeping the streets open to pedestrians does not mean prohibiting access for all vehicles. “When it comes down to the future of open streets in the neighborhood, we absolutely recognize that these streets will need emergency and sanitation access. It is misinformation to say that closing off the streets is going to happen because it’s not going to happen,” Hidalgo says. “The street will need sanitation access, emergency vehicles will need access.” 

Additionally, “There is very clear disinformation that is out there about parking,” says Anthony Buissereth, a volunteer for the coalition and the executive director of North Brooklyn Neighbors says “Parking is not affected by open streets. People are still allowed to park on the block.” 

The Coalition is eager to hear from neighbors on the issue. “This is very much a beta program,” says Lynn del Sol, a coalition volunteer. “This is really us just running through the beta motions of its viability. And what we need is for the community to really push back in a constructive way, and tell us how do we make our streets better.” 

Send your comments to the coalition here, and directly to the Department of Transportation, please via this survey

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  1. Why are these new people coming coming here trying to change everydamm thing ,last year a women was standing by one of the barriers on Bedford ave and Lorimer street in the street and a van run into her and she lost her legs I was told there’s parks in Greenpoint water fronts and bike lines ,,,leave the damm streets for the cars busses and trucks ,that’s what the street was made for not people

  2. I think the open streets are great. Most people in this neighborhood do not own cars. Streets are for people. You are not entitled to free parking. Am I entitled to a free storage unit or apartment for my stuff?

  3. Clearly no one considered our elderly or disabled neighbors who drive. This population who live on or around these blocks are unable to exit the vehicle, move barriers, return to their vehicles, drive past, exit their vehicle again to replace the barrier. The concept of OPEN STREETS are selfish and pushed by a privileged few or those who feel a sense of entitlement. If this is made permanent, perhaps a Class Action Lawsuit will be required.

  4. Parking on the streets is not free. Part of the money that is paid in your vehicle goes towards street parking. This is NYC, nothing is for free !

  5. Streets are one of city’s most valuable and abundant resources. I am happy to see Open Streets program provide greater access to much needed public places for the majority of us who don’t own a car in the city. Streets don’t have to be for cars only. I hope Open Streets can stay permanent.

  6. I firmly believe that the decision to have open streets should be made by the people who live on these streets as they are the ones who will feel the brunt of the burden of noisy streets, smelly streets that have the wonderful scent of human and pet urine, and yes parking spots. It seems like those who are in favor of open streets do not actually live on these open streets. If you want walking space then why did you ever move into NYC?

  7. Noel and his organization North Brooklyn Open Streets Coalition do nit represent many local residents that live on Berry St and off Berry St. The DOT has canceled meetings with local residents. Open Streets for Berry St was a pandemic response now being rushed to to institutionalized despite many issues never being addressed. Here is another petition calling for the program on Berry St to be stopped or paused due to the stress people that live here were given on top of dealing with a pandemic. https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/petition-to-prevent-the-permanent-one-mile-closure-of-berry-street-and-proposed-bedford-ave/ Please support us as we demand a platform that includes everyone, especially people that live here. When the NYPD was in charge of the barriers they kept their commitment by installing and deinstalling. The volunteers that complained about the NYPD and took over this responsibility leave the barriers in the streets 24-7 and took off the signs that posted the opening and closing times (8am-8pm). We feel they did this to make open streets permanent and it creates a contention when people feel free to congregate and party on the streets after 8pm. Please do not be fooled by the people presenting as representatives of North Brooklyn. They are getting something out if this and are close with the politicians getting reelected and all these politicians have and drive cars – so its not all about cars. We do not want our streets filled with porta potties or the city leasing out open streets to business and vendors. All we want is our quality if life restored, DOT to fix traffic lights and street lights that have been out for a year, and sanitation to get their budget back!

  8. I live on Berry street and strongly support making Berry street a permanent car free street / park space. I have lived in Williamsburg for decades and have seen (as we all have) grand changes. For those who live here, we remember what Berry street was heading towards before, dense and getting worse. What has open streets brought? Vast improvement. Regularly I can now look out my window and see families walking by, laughing and smiling. This is the direction I want things to go in. There have been other recent attempts to fix our local problem; most recently, right before the pandemic, there was a plan for a tram to run down Berry street(the BQX). I went to the local meetings open-minded. But it was clearly a bad idea, cutting the street in half, separating us with a literal divide. We’ve now lived with Berry street as an open and car free street for months and, as a person who has been here throughout the lockdown (and well before), this greatly impacts and improves the quality of life in Williamsburg; these open streets bring people together. This is not theoretical, it is here, and gives visible benefits to everyone who live in the neighborhood. As a native New York, and as a long time resident of Berry street, I support making this permenant—for the locals, for the city, for us all.

  9. I feel the closure of driggs in particular was not well thought out. it’s very underutilized as an “open street” and the residential block of morgan ave is suffering from the diverted traffic. with driggs blocked off, cars are funneled down morgan as the only option. many residents live on this stretch of morgan (exponentially more than the closed section of driggs) and the now constant stream of traffic has turned the once peaceful block into a nightmare. we have a symphony of cars honking their horns on an almost daily basis, as the block is simply not wide enough to handle the influx of traffic. if the dot had done any research, or observed the traffic flow with the closure of driggs, they would immediately see the negative impact it’s having on the surrounding streets.

    I’m a cyclist primarily and the blockades on driggs have also made it difficult to travel in that direction. more often than not, the barriers are blocking the entire street and you’re forced to either ride on the sidewalk (bad) or get off your bike and move the barriers. with driggs being the main connection point from the new bike path on the Kosciuszko Bridge, the open street is no benefit to cyclists as it’s now more difficult to ride with its blockades on morgan, sutton, and kingsland.

    Id personally prefer to see driggs returned to its former state, but I feel a fair compromise would be to limit the program to weekends only.

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