A new lawsuit wants to put an end to New York City’s popular Open Streets program, claiming that the open streets violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Twelve New Yorkers who live near an open street filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, asserting that the program complicates life for people with disabilities and hinders them from free use of the public streets.

The lawsuit uses George Orwell quote to start and deeming the program’s name as Orwellian “Newspeak.” It also goes on to call the program’s volunteers “brown shirts,” a term denoting Nazi soldiers.

North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, North Brooklyn Open Streets Community Coalition, North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, and other North Brooklyn individuals are all named as defendants, as well as other stakeholders across the city.

“The program’s implementation completely disregards the fact that individuals with mobility disabilities rely on motor vehicles, whether their own, that of a caregiver, or through a ride share or para-transit service, to take them to and from their residences, places of employment, recreational activities, doctors’ offices, shops, and to pursue their activities of independent daily living,” the plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit.

The Open Streets program, founded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and made permanent the following year, installed removable barriers across city streets to facilitate pedestrian use during a time of extreme isolation at home. This year, the program will set up shop in 160 locations across 300 city blocks. The Open Streets blocks are divided into two categories — limited local access, which allows for parking, deliveries, and cyclists following a speed limit of 5 MPH, and full closure, prohibiting any type of vehicle or parking, although a 15-foot emergency lane must be clear at all times, for emergency vehicle access, according to the City’s Department of Transportation.


Aside from the program’s popularity with pedestrians, local businesses get an economic boost from the increase in foot traffic, a DOT study found last year.

The plaintiffs certainly have a long (open or closed) road ahead of them to prove their case. “The legal challenge is unlikely to succeed because it relies on anecdotes rather than proving systemic issues with the program…and the complaints ignore the endless ways in which cars have long blocked access all over the city — including access to the disabled,” transportation news source Streetsblog NYC reports, citing conversations with legal experts.

Join the Conversation


  1. The “Open Streets” program served it’s purpose during the pandemic. The pandemic is over, it’s time to go back to normal and end this program. The people who LIVE on these streets want their life back. If people really want an “open street” then they should campaign to have one on their block and not on someone else’s street!

      1. It is unfortunate how common regressive attitudes are, ‍ oh well.

        I can add that anecdotally my uncle in a wheel chair is a huge fan of open streets.

  2. The whole idea was idiotic from the beginning. People were paranoid during covid “crisis” and were afraid one another, thanks to mass media. Now all is over so let them use the sidewalks again as initially intended. It’s not India, no need of holly cows on the roads.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *