‘Open Streets’ Program on the Lower East Side Draws Local Criticism

Posted on: May 11th, 2020 at 5:00 am by

Photo: Eddie Panta

As desolate city streets transform to pedestrian use, some locals are criticizing the implementation here on the Lower East Side.

“Open Streets,” as the Mayor’s program is known, is the plan to restrict traffic flows, thereby creating free space to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. The aim is lofty – 40 miles of open roadbed for pedestrians and cyclists by month end, and 100 miles total.

Photo: Eddie Panta

In this neck of the woods, the following temporary closures are now in effect:

  • Orchard Street, between Delancey and East Houston (already a pedestrian mall on Sundays)
  • Ludlow Street, between Delancey and East Houston
  • Stanton Street, between Allen and Essex
  • Rivington Street, between Allen and Essex

However, as many readers have pointed out, the window of freedom, so to speak, is rather small. Only four hours between 8:00am and noon daily. Largely due to scheduling limitations of the Lower East Side Partnership – the area’s business improvement district – which oversees the local Open Streets program with the NYPD. The sanitation services company, Block by Block, is also involved in day-to-day operations.

But the hope is to expand the scope.

When reached for comment, President Tim Laughlin told us, “Our operations team continues to work a modified schedule between 6am and noon daily; as such we have limited the hours of the closure at this time to 8am to noon which allows us to close and open streets within our current operations schedule. We are exploring additional options that would permit a longer closure window each day and hope to find a solution for extended hours in the near future.”

Photo: Eddie Panta

In the meantime, it doesn’t appear that everyone is adhering to the script. Motorists are apparently dismantling the barriers, mostly because there’s no exit from Hell Square in the morning even if parked legally.

To that end, Laughlin notes – “The program is designed to allow those with delivery and other needs to access the blocks by moving barricades.”

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