NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is concern about drivers turning onto Open Streets set aside during the pandemic to help promote social distancing.

Some residents on the Upper West Side say drivers are going around police barricades, leaving those in the neighborhood feeling unsafe.

Despite being busy with people, vehicle after vehicle drove on a closed section of West End Avenue between West 87th and 96th streets Saturday.

Residents say it’s a common occurrence for drivers to illegally go around police barricades.

“People were driving down here like these blue things were just an obstacle course,” one Upper West Side resident said.

Upper West Side residents say drivers are going around police barricades set up to block off streets for the city’s Open Streets program. (Credit: CBS2)

The streets being blocked off are part of the city’s Open Streets program launched in May. The goal is to open 100 miles of streets to pedestrians and cyclists to enable socially distancing.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., only residents and essential traffic, like delivery drivers and emergency vehicles, are allowed, as long as drivers don’t go more than 5 mph.

“When they’re supposed to be passing by, they’re going faster than they should be,” parent Ed Moya said.

CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon tried to inform drivers that they were not supposed to be turning onto a blocked off street. Some ignored her, others said they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to be turning there.

And that’s not all she saw.

While she and her cameraman were reporting on the Upper West Side, they witnessed an SUV speeding down West End Avenue. It crashed into a barricade, essentially breaking it, and then drove off like nothing had happened.

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It’s unclear how many of these vehicles are allowed to be on these streets, but resident Larry Hyman says with little signage, the rules are unclear for drivers.

“I am occasionally turning off of 89th onto West End Avenue because I see a spot and I have people who are pedestrians who are screaming at me who haven’t looked at the signs. I’m entitled to do what I’m doing,” he said.

The mayor’s office says the Open Streets program is the largest in the country and has been successful.

It adds reports like these are few and far between, but it is working with the local precinct and the Department of Transportation to ensure the program is safe.

Meanwhile, the NYPD says the 24th Precinct is aware of situation and is working to address it through directed patrols.

Until that happens, father of two Ed Moya will be avoiding the area.

“Because we don’t think it is safe or ideal. If our kids were a lot older, maybe we would feel a little more comfortable, but at this age, no,” he said.

Residents say they want to see more enforcement, more visible signage and more barricades.

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Comments
  1. sprout5 says:

    They only time cars don’t speed through West End Avenue is when the street was activated with dancing, music, art, landscaping – which drew in a lot of people (in a physically distant way). See video of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGSV2IAox_c

    With all the city focus on restaurant streets (and those in wealthy areas with strong BID’s), streets in residential areas are not getting enough support to function as well as they could to provide safe uses for their local communities. Restaurants and other businesses are important for our economy, but perhaps if we also enliven the residential (and school zone) areas and make them safe we will provide healthier environments for people to use streets for connection and physical activity.

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