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Sunnysiders Have Mixed Reactions to Open Streets

Open Streets on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside (Photo: Asha MacKay)

June 1, 2020 By Asha MacKay

Midday during the work week, Sunnyside’s “open streets” are filled with runners, parents with young children and a delivery driver carefully navigating around the barricades.

As of late May, more than 40 miles of open streets are on the map for New Yorkers to enjoy some socially-distant outside time. Open streets are closed to through traffic, with vehicle traffic restricted to 5 miles per hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week.

Many streets have opened up in Sunnyside since mid-May. There is 46th Street between Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue (10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends); 39th Avenue from Woodside Avenue to Barnett Avenue; 50th Avenue from 48th to 44th Street; and Skillman Avenue from 39th Place to 43rd Street.

The Department of Transportation has listed the streets on its websites.

The reaction to the concept has been mixed. Parents such as Sunnyside resident Kimberly Benzinger, 39, are cautiously supportive. “The road is still not safe,” she observes. “Cars are not going 5 miles per hour.”

However, Benzinger lets her sons ride their bikes down Skillman Avenue, although she is nervous about their safety.

Meanwhile, Justin Ortiz, 23, navigates Sunnyside’s open streets as an Amazon delivery driver. When he has upward of five packages to deliver on a blocked-off street, he has to move the barricades to get his van through. “I always put them back,” he assures, “but yes, driving around here is difficult.”

Henry, a 63-year-old man who didn’t provide his last name, hopes that the barricades stay up for a while. He complains that “people are still commuting down Skillman when they should be using Queens Boulevard.”

He believes that drivers will eventually adjust.

Alp Batauray, 37, an essential worker who often has to get out of a barricaded street to get to work, supports the concept. However, he says that the open streets could have been planned better.

“Why not the streets, rather than the avenues?” Batauray asks. And for that matter, “If streets can be open to pedestrians, why can’t open spaces like parks and schoolyards be open too?”

Local BID Sunnyside Shines is involved in the weekend closure of 46th Street between Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue.

According to director Jaime-Faye Bean, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines, the goal is to turn some of these streets into an “expanded cafe format,” as other cities in the U.S. are already doing.

The streets were selected by the DOT with the assistance of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office and other groups.

When looking for streets to close to through traffic, the DOT has stringent requirements, says Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives.

Streets must not be bus or truck routes, and the DOT prefers it when community organizations can be responsible for maintaining the barricades.

The point of the open streets, Restrepo says, is to show New Yorkers that the city is looking out for their welfare amid the pandemic.

“There are going to be dramatic shifts in the way people move about the world,” he adds, and open streets are going to be a part of that change.

A bicyclist taking advantage of “open streets” on Skillman Avenue between 39th Place and 43rd Street (Photo: Asha MacKay)

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Open streets is a blessing. Too many drivers from outside of the neighborhood were flying down 39th Ave as an alternative route to Queens Blvd or Northern. Most people that live in NYC don’t have cars so we would prefer more access. This shouldn’t be an issue for locals because they are just driving in and out to park. There should be less space for cars and more space for pedestrians, cyclists, and all other forms of transportation. And guess what? The times they are a changin!

J Murphy

Roads are for traffic, sidewalks for pedestrians and children, parks are to enjoy without interrupting the flow of daily commerce…..lets be honest about this. There is an agenda … have certain individuals now elected public officials that were marginalized during their youth or formative years, now its payback time. Their hatred and resentment is palpable from the most…. innocuous to the obvious for the culture that built this country and city. Not to worry…..I believe in my lifetime that “Atlas” will shrug.


in my neighborhood this street closing is awkward and serves no purpose except annoying drivers. Who could use a single closed block and for what purpose? Are you going to let your kids run there while the cars can still go around the barriers?! There’s no logic in any of it (what am I talking about, it’s DeBill’s city, right?). If it’s for playing why don’t they open playgrounds?! If it’s for social distancing – what are we supposed to do after we leave that single block? Just an empty showoff from our useless mayor

Packard Streeter

Drivers are not abiding the closure on 50th Avenue. They just drive around the barricades. Many are even ignoring the flashing red stop lights and driving straight through.


almost got run over by a car on 39 Ave ……….sidewalks are safer …………..surely would not allow a child walk or ride in these streets

Better planning needed

I have tried to use the space closed off on 39th street to walk, but I don’t feel safe as there are still cars driving down the road around the barriers. I think they needed to plan better by either allowing no cars, or opening up streets that are less busy. I have a car in the neighborhood, and I am still an advocate for this, but it was poorly planned and is poorly enforced in the neighborhood.


I think it’s great. A little awkward for some, what the hell isn’t awkward in New York. This is a city where semi trucks navigate in midtown traffic and 50 story buildings all use a single freight elevator. We adapt and we get along. That’s what makes this place work.

Good article Asha.


The current setup is not very safe due to the speed of some drivers. The barrier setup is poor and does make it difficult for delivery vehicles.

The open streets is a great idea. But sadly it’s prob only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Some enforcement of the spread limit is required.

Positive intervention

This has been great. The lower traffic volumes really show that even after the pandemic local streets should be limited to local traffic. Why should anyone have to drive more than 5MPH on our residential streets? Also there has been a massive increase in bike traffic on our wonderfully aging bike lanes. The voices of those bitter people against these neighborhood friendly positive interventions grows ever so softer by the day. The noise of bike bells and children having fun is a blessing in these hard times.


Cuomo for president. Trump has the blood of over 100K Americans on his hands.,Trump danced with the flag and called the virus a hoax in March. Trump is a draft dodging coward who hid in a bunker and sent out Twitter posts. Had gall to call others weak. Trump is not fit.,

MJ Drage

I commented once before and I’ll comment again. Stupid idea. Van Brammer’s husband wants the avenues closed so he can bike. Last week I walked across 39th Ave to mail some letters. A couple walking in the middle of the gutter crashed into me. The husband yelled at me that he had the right of way. What! I was crossing with the light and they apparently walked faster to smack into me. The same day, minutes later, I had my car out. I stopped at the light. On green I turned right and rolled down the street. Definitely under 5 mph. I was observing the car ahead of me navigating around the barriers. No one was walking. As I rolled near the barrier, with the intention of turning right onto 52nd street, this young man stepped off the curb. I braked! He walked in front of my car and hit the hood with his fist, used an expletive on me, then screamed I needed to look where I was going and that the Avenue was a pedestrian walkway and I was breaking the rules! I’m a driver, pedestrian, and biker. I follow the rules of the road. These people are rude and thoughtless. They are likely to get themselves hurt and they would deserve it. Cars and bikes on the road. Pedestrians on sidewalks!


Sunnyside has become a place very difficult for drivers of car services to pick up the disabled and seniors who have much-needed doctor’s appointments. In addition, food deliveries, laundry pick- up deliveries, medical supply deliveries to pharmacies, and medicines to the home-bound have been greatly compromised. We all knew back in March, before Mayor de Blasio opened up Sunnyside streets, the rules of social distancing and did very well. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., it is necessary for these services to have full access to avenues and streets in Sunnyside. Our Mayor did not think of the serious ramifications by opening up avenues and streets to pedestrians and they need to be closed at this point.


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