Park Slope’s Open Streets program is celebrating its 100th day – and residents and businessmen want the road closures in place forever.
Despite the odds of closing 17 blocks of prime real estate to most traffic over a weekend, the business district in Park Slope calls it a win.
park slope version of Citywide Open Roads Program It has protected businesses from the pandemic, moved residents out and into communal space, and gave this bustling Brooklyn neighborhood a small-town feel. Saturday marks the 100th day of Open Streets in Park Slope since its July 2020 launch.
About once a week from spring to fall, restaurants, boutiques and other businesses welcome more than 1,000 people daily during the event, including Fifth Avenue. From Bergen to Fourth St. Close to everyone except deliveries and movers, making it a pedestrian paradise for 17 of the 30 blocks in the neighborhood Business Improvement District.
“Open Streets allowed us to meet so many new people,” said Brendan Byrnes, owner of neighborhood bar The Commissioner.
This year, Open Streets is laying siege to a total of 300 blocks, or 8 miles, across five boroughs. The city grants permits, and gives some money through grants. Local neighborhoods do the rest.
In Park Slope, it began as an effort to relieve the stress of the pandemic and help businesses remain closed, while organizer and Business Reform District executive director Joanna Tallantyre told the Daily News. Nearly half of the 520 businesses belonging to Park Slope BID, about 200 of which fall within the confines of Open Streets, were soon incorporated.
It has evolved into what organizers hope is a permanent cul-de-sac closure at Fourth St., with the Brooklyn neighborhood’s main drag being purely pedestrian-only for one to two weekend days per week. Will start in spring. The celebration of the 100th day will be accompanied by a salsa dance party sponsored by Bassito Restaurant on the block between Dean and Bergen St. from noon to 10 p.m.
Open Streets proved to be a lifesaver for restaurants like French-fare Bricolage, which expanded from two or three curbside-dining tables to 10 or 14, owner Miro Gall told The News.
“It made all the difference in the world,” Gall said. “If it weren’t for that program, we wouldn’t be here.”
Cal-Mex restaurant Calexico also retained its four other locations.
“It supplies revenue to support the rest of the company as a whole,” said Amanda Scala, Park Slope’s general manager. “It allowed us to be open to the whole pandemic. None of our shops are closed.”
“It deepened our relationship with High Dive, the dive bar next door,” said Commissioner Byrnes, explaining the venue coordinated live music, serving a complementary beer selection and ensuring that Their patrons don’t take up table space at neighboring eateries. “We both saw a dramatic increase in business.”
When the new fish market next door started selling oysters during Open Streets, “people loved it,” Byrnes said. “They’ll buy us a bottle of wine and a dozen oysters from them, and it’s a win.”
With no traffic, families wander up and down the avenue.
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“No fear. Everyone is resting. No cars, no noise, no smoke,” said Gal.
“I walk downstairs and bump into neighbors all the time,” said Talantair, who is also a resident. “And that’s cool — we have a margarita or something.”
Gal said, “Instead of everyone closing in on their businesses, and we talk, and we build relationships, and we help each other, and we help each other, so everyone is out, and we talk, and we help each other out.”
To be sure, this is a huge undertaking, and not without detractors. Some have complained about the lack of parking, Tallantyre acknowledged, though she was quick to point out that Fifth Avenue has time-limited, metered parking anyway.
A staff of volunteers makes sure everything stays clean. They also navigate construction and work by Con Ed and National Grid. And there are the inevitable people who, despite the city’s permission, remove the barricades and try to drive.
Overall, business owners said this is a post-pandemic tradition they want to keep.
“Open Streets has strengthened community not only between businesses and their customers, but also between the businesses themselves and between customers, neighbors and residents,” Byrnes said. “The community is stronger and more vibrant because of it.”