NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City plans to open at least 40 miles of streets to pedestrians this summer.
Over the weekend, crowds packed Central Park to enjoy the warm temperatures. Some people were not wearing masks or following social distancing measures.
Opening the streets will provide other outdoor options so people can spread out, especially with city pools closed.
“Over the next month, we will create a minimum of 40 miles of open streets, and then the goal during the duration of the COVID crisis… the goal is to get up to 100 miles of those open streets,” he said.
“The Council is thrilled our calls for open streets have been answered and looks forward to working with the administration to give New Yorkers the space they need to socially distance properly,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. “As the weather gets nicer and this unprecedented crisis stretches on longer, we need to do everything in our power to keep our neighbors safe and healthy.”
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De Blasio said the city will start with streets in or around parks, then look to widen sidewalks, like Rockefeller Center during the holidays. The plan also calls for expanding bike lanes.
“First priority on the places hardest hit, and then of course figuring out where they’ll have the biggest impact where the most people are,” he said.
Back in March, the city similarly opened streets in four of the five boroughs. The program was later suspended, apparently because not enough people were taking advantage of the space to justify the police manpower.
De Blasio was asked whether there will be a smaller police presence this time.
“If you create a situation where there are not protections and there’s not enforcement, you could put people in danger. Obviously, the goal of an open street or safe street structure is that people can enjoy it and experience the virtue of it and the social distancing without having a new danger from vehicles,” he replied. “So we’ve always had a concern about enforcement and we continue to.”
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he supports the move.
“It’s very hard to walk down a sidewalk in New York City and maintain social distancing. So I had said New York City should open streets,” he said Monday. “Remember, in New York City the traffic is way down – way, way, way down. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s like night and day.”
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The mayor also announced alternate side parking will be suspended for another two weeks – until May 12.