DOT Deploys Planters to Beautify and Secure City’s ‘Gold Standard’ Open Street

Look, ma, no cars! This is what a safe street looks like. File photo: Angela Stach
Look, ma, no cars! This is what a safe street looks like. File photo: Angela Stach

From out of the blue … green.

The city Department of Transportation turned the Friday before Labor Day into a mini Arbor Day for residents of Jackson Heights and Corona, deploying dozens of planters at key intersections along the 34th Avenue open street to beautify the area as well as prevent drivers from sneaking around barricades.

The planters — which were placed without any prior public announcement — started showing up Friday morning at corners with fire hydrants (when there’s fire hydrant at the end of a street, drivers can slip into the pedestrian zone because there is no car parked in the curbside lane).

Here it is, your planters slideshow:

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After Streetsblog spotted the planters early on Friday, we reached out to the Department of Transportation. Spokesman Brian Zumhagen said the goal of the 36 planters between between 69th Street and Junction Boulevard was “to further beautify our popular 34th Avenue open street and calm vehicular turns onto the avenue.”

Zumhagen said the planters were installed “in response to concerns we heard from local residents.”

“Over the past year, we have observed drivers taking advantage of the standard no parking near hydrants making quick turns onto the open street at specific intersections,” he added.

By midday Friday, the planters were filled with … plants. The new greenery will be maintained by the Horticulture Society, which is already involved in sprucing up the open street on Willoughby Avenue in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

The planters are a temporary measure to secure the open street in advance of a permanent design or strategy to be released by the Department of Transportation this fall or winter, for a summer, 2022 deployment, the agency has said. The DOT considers 34th Avenue to be its “gold standard” open street. During the mayoral campaign, all the leading candidates (including eventual winner Eric Adams) said they supported a plan to turn the open street into a 24/7 linear park.

The installation of planters — which are now filled with greenery — was not without needless controversy from opponents of the open street, who have long complained that the barricades represent an inconvenience to drivers.

“They’re ugly!!!” Shelley Brevda posted publicly on Facebook on Friday. The accompanying picture showed a previously greenery-free street corner looking anything but unsightly.

In the eye of the beholder, perhaps.
In the eye of the beholder, perhaps.


Eyes on the Street: 33rd Street Plaza Comes to Life

There is now a plaza at Penn Plaza. The finishing touches were added to a temporary pedestrian space occupying the full breadth of 33rd Street just west of Seventh Avenue earlier this week. The plaza stretches a little less than halfway to Eighth Avenue, replacing what used to be westbound traffic lanes with planters, sculptures, a terraced seating area, and a painted […]