Yang Calls For Permanent Open Streets Program With City Funding

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang pn Vanderbilt Ave. on Saturday.
Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang pn Vanderbilt Ave. on Saturday.

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang said that as mayor he would direct city funding to a permanent open streets program, a priority for open streets volunteers who recently asked the city to throw them some cash to keep the popular program humming.

“I’m for fully funding open streets,” Yang said during a visit to the Vanderbilt Avenue open street on Saturday. “At this point it’s such a vital part of the city that the city should be providing financing.”

In a plan set to be announced on Sunday, Yang said that as mayor, in addition to provide barricades, benches and signage for open streets, he would “provide funding so that open streets programming does not have to solely rely on local donations,” something that he suggested would help support the program in areas with fewer resources. He also said that in areas without established volunteer groups or business improvement districts to manage open streets, Department of Transportation, Parks Department or other city employees would provide workers to man barricades.

The funding promise comes just days after elected officials and open street volunteers asked for more resources for the program to take the stress off of volunteers and ensure the entire city can benefit from open streets. Additionally, an open streets volunteer collective calling itself the Open Streets Coalition wrote a letter to the mayor asking him to be clear about how much city funding the entire program would receive, and to “utilize municipal employees to assist with open street operations.”

Yang’s open streets plan appeared to be a direct answer to many of the asks that the Open Streets Coalition recently made, including a promise on his part to install permanent design changes like retractable bollards or planters to create “self-enforcing” open streets, or even make certain streets into pedestrian plazas. The coalition recently asked the mayor to help create a street blocking solution that would “prevent unnecessary through-traffic while allowing for easy emergency access. The long-term goal should not center around heavy objects that volunteers need to personally move multiple times each day.”

And in response to a Streetsblog report last year that showed open streets were located in neighborhoods with an average median income of $81,567, over $20,000 higher than the city’s median income, Yang promised that he would establish more open streets in the areas of Staten Island and the Bronx without them in his first year in office.

Yang is the latest candidate to embrace permanent open streets as policy, a street safety priority also endorsed by Kathryn Garcia, Scott Stringer, Shaun Donovan, Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales.