Oct. 23, 2020 By Allie Griffin
[This story has been updated to reflect that the Open Streets program has no set end date at this time.]
The city will keep the 34th Avenue Open Street going as the Department of Transportation (DOT) looks into a plan for its “long-term” transformation.
Residents and local elected officials have called for the stretch to be made an Open Street on a permanent basis.
The Open Streets program, including 34th Avenue, was originally set to expire on Oct. 31, but now has no end date, a DOT spokesperson said.
“The 34th Avenue Open Street will not end on Oct. 31st,” spokesperson Brian Zumhagen said, as the agency looks into a long-term plan.
Every day 1.3 miles of 34th Avenue, from 69th Street to Junction Boulevard, closes to cars and most vehicles from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Vehicles are permitted to drive — at 5 MPH — on the closed street for local and emergency purposes.
Residents, advocates and elected officials such as Council Member Daniel Dromm and Sen. Jessica Ramos have called on the City to make the 34th Avenue Open Street permanent for months.
On Saturday, the transportation advocacy group Transportation Alternatives will be holding a rally to demand that City Hall and the DOT make the 34th Avenue Open Street permanent.
Many supporters say 34th Avenue has become the defining street in the city’s Open Streets program, which was first introduced in May to give New Yorkers more outdoor space during the pandemic. A photo of the 34th Avenue Open Street even graced the front page of the New York Times last month.
The Open Street has been transformed into a lively pedestrian and cyclist path with regular community-led activities such as Zumba classes, bingo sessions, children’s games and crafts, ESL classes and tutoring when it closes to most traffic each day.
A DOT spokesperson said the agency has been encouraged by the attention the 34th Avenue Open Street has received from Jackson Heights residents. The agency said it will soon start working on long-term plans, as Streestblog first reported.
DOT officials will work with local stakeholders to come up with the specifics of the plan.
“We are thrilled at the reception that [34th Avenue] has received these last few months, and we look forward to working closely with community groups, elected officials, local schools and advocates on the best plan for the street’s long-term transformation,” Zumhagen said.
DOT experts will speak to community members about the future of the Open Street at Queens Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee meeting next week. More details are expected to be revealed during the meeting.
Dromm, who has been pushing for the Open Street’s permanence, celebrated the win on Twitter.
“While details still need to be ironed out, I am proud to have worked with the DOT to make this happen,” he tweeted.