EXCLUSIVE: Queens Pol Spoke to Mayor — And He ‘Gets It’ On 34th Ave. Open Street

A few hundred people, marching behind a nice handmade banner, demanded permanence for the 34th Avenue open street on Saturday. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
A few hundred people, marching behind a nice handmade banner, demanded permanence for the 34th Avenue open street on Saturday. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The mayor gets it.

As hundreds rallied in Jackson Heights and Corona on Saturday to demand that the city permanently close the 34th Avenue open street to cars, State Senator Jessica Ramos revealed to Streetsblog that Mayor de Blasio is “amenable” to the community’s argument.

Ramos spoke with the mayor on Friday about a number of topics — “one of which was the pressing issue of making our 34th Avenue open street permanent,” she said.

dog walker
Dogs love the open street, too. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

“He was very amenable and positive and very receptive of our community’s arguments, so we are looking forward to a positive outcome,” she added.

Ramos said she threw at the mayor the kitchen sink of positive arguments in favor of permanence — the neighborhood’s extremely limited open space, the intense community use of the stretch between 69th Street and Junction Boulevard in the heart of a COVID-racked neighborhood, the unprecedented volunteer effort, among others — and left feeling that the mayor “gets it.”

“We talked about the lack of [outdoor] space along the avenue, which would prevent a spike, which was the catalyst for opening the street in the first place,” she said. “And we talked about the way the community is actually coming out and using the street. We can’t take away that happiness from the kids, from our seniors, who are enjoying a more social life. And I think he understands where we need to be headed.”

Where he is headed remains anyone’s guess. Under pressure from Ramos and Council Member Danny Dromm, the Department of Transportation agreed to present a plan of some sorts to Community Board 3 on Wednesday night, though the agency declined to give a sneak peak.

News of that coming presentation added an undercurrent of timeliness to Saturday’s large outpouring of support for the 34th Avenue open street. Hundreds of kids, adults and seniors — with broad racial diversity — marched from Junction Boulevard to Travers Park, a tiny green space that constitutes virtually all of the recreation space in Jackson Heights.

The popularity of the open street is not just a local concern; Council Members Carlina Rivera (Manhattan), Jimmy Van Bramer (Long Island City), Brad Lander (Brooklyn) and Donovan Richards (Far Rockaway) joined their colleague Dromm. Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (whose district is just south of the neighborhood) also joined the rally, along with her (almost certain) incoming Albany colleague, Democratic nominee Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas.

“Raise your hand if the open street gave you hope,” said organizer Dawn Siff, words that prompted a forest of raised hands. “Our open street can be a model for the entire city.”

It already is. Rivera told Streetsblog that she will seek a permanent car-free street in her Lower East Side district. If needed, she will reintroduce her bill — which demanded that the mayor create open streets for recreation in the first place — with the word “permanent” in it. (For now, she’s hoping for a stretch of Broadway in the Flatiron District and maybe, just maybe, Avenue B.)

Here are some more photos of Saturday’s rally:

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Community Board 3 Traffic and Transportation Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 28. That particular community board is poor at posting information on its website, so check back frequently by clicking here.