A Queens Avenue Shows How City Streets Can be Reimagined
[Want to get New York Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.] It’s Monday. Weather: Cloudy, with a high in the low 80s. Scattered showers early in …
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Weather: Cloudy, with a high in the low 80s. Scattered showers early in the morning, and again in the afternoon.
Alternate-side parking: In effect until Sunday (Feast of the Assumption).
Credit…Mary Inhea Kang for The New York Times
After the pandemic made gathering safely indoors all but impossible, New Yorkers sought enjoyment in the streets. Dozens of miles were blocked off to cars. The new spaces gave rise to outdoor dining, safer bike paths, dance parties, concerts, impromptu sports games and more.
And while some residents argue that the closures lead to gridlock and make parking even harder to find, other residents and urban planners who support the “open streets” say the experiment shows how city streets could be reimagined, possibly in perpetuity.
They say that 34th Avenue in Queens shows what a modern street should look like.
“This is a whole exercise in what is possible,” said Myrna Tinoco, 45, a social worker who roller skates on the avenue with her 6-year-old son. “At a minimum, just to have the legroom to stretch out would have been a godsend — and what we got was a little miracle.”
[The debate over 34th Avenue illustrates the challenge of reimagining streets in cities around the world once the pandemic recedes and traffic returns.]
Metal barriers go up at 8 a.m. every day, closing off 1.3 miles of 34th Avenue.
On the street, people take free classes in yoga, zumba, salsa and Mexican folk dance. Clowns, jugglers and acrobats have performed at a pop-up circus. Dogs in rainbow-hued outfits and their owners have marched together in a Pride parade.
A pickup soccer game has become a nightly tradition on 34th Avenue.
Janet Bravo and her husband, both Mexican immigrants, sell homemade tamales from a food truck on the avenue, earning $300 to $400 a day.
By June 2020, daily pedestrian trips on 34th Avenue had doubled from prepandemic levels, and they have remained higher nearly every month since, according to an analysis by StreetLight Data.
Some residents say the experiment has gone too far. In addition to creating problems for traffic and parking, the open streets also make it difficult to get deliveries, they say.
“It’s always been a quiet residential street,” said Judy Grubin, a former chair of the local community board who lives a block from 34th Avenue. “Now there’s so much turmoil and noise and traffic, we don’t know what to do anymore.”
On two open streets in north Brooklyn, barriers have been vandalized, run over and dumped into Newtown Creek.
From The Times
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Executive Assistant Who Accused Cuomo of Groping Comes Forward
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New York in Party Mode (Briefly): Behind the Metro Desk’s Nightlife Project
For Seniors Especially, Covid Can Be Stealthy
Want more news? Check out our full coverage.
The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
Two people were killed, and two others critically injured, in a shooting linked to a party in East New York on Sunday morning. [NBC New York]
After lawsuits, New York City plans to offer regular Covid-19 testing at charter schools this fall. [Daily News]
Flooding at Penn Station this weekend was caused by a plumbing problem, city officials said. [ABC7]
And finally: Restaurants’ fresh list of problems
The Times’s Julie Creswell and Priya Krishna write:
At Sylvia’s Restaurant, a 59-year-old Harlem mainstay that rode out the shocks and shutdowns of the pandemic’s first year, the city’s return to full-capacity indoor dining this spring and summer has simply brought a new set of challenges.
Workers have been so hard to find, even after the restaurant raised wages, that the owners had to call in relatives from across the country to help. Indoor seating remains limited because there aren’t enough workers to serve all the tables. Breakfast has been put on pause. As food prices soar, customer favorites like the smothered beef short ribs have been taken off the menu.
New Yorkers began the summer with expectations of a grand reopening — tourists flocking to visit, curfews lifted and dining and nightlife regaining their former effervescence. But many restaurants are still dealing with fallout from the Covid shutdowns while scrambling to satisfy a public determined to enjoy a normal summer.
“Everyone was like, ‘OK, restaurants, go ahead; you can open up again,’” said Tren’ness Woods-Black, an executive of Sylvia’s and a granddaughter of the founder, Sylvia Woods. “But it’s not as easy as flipping on a light switch.”
Though clearly recovering from the blows of the past year and a half, New York’s dining business faces a host of disruptions. Many of the part-time artists and actors who worked the city’s restaurants left town as cultural venues closed. Staff shortages have exhausted the remaining employees and curtailed service. Gaps in food supplies have resulted in stripped-down menus. And a crush of eager, sometimes impatient, diners is adding to the strain.
It’s Monday — grab a bite.
Metropolitan Diary: Round trip
I was living on the Upper West Side, which meant every subway trip started with me taking the B or C to 59th Street.
And so, one muggy August morning, it was only after I was already on the train to Brooklyn for brunch at a friend’s place that I pulled up the Sunset Park address on my phone.
It took more than an hour to get there. When I finally did, I peeked through the apartment door and saw a half-dozen people happily jabbering away.
Long after the dishes had been cleared, I excused myself: I had another get-together that evening, so I had to take the subway back uptown to unwind before going out again.
After getting home, I took a late-afternoon nap, then woke up, topped off my water bottle and headed back to the subway.
As the train lumbered past 86th Street, I dredged up the address of where I was going. I blinked several times. It had to be a mistake. I checked the original email. It was no mistake.
I texted the friend who had hosted brunch that morning: “Looks like I’m having dinner with your downstairs neighbor.”
— Jeffrey Zuckerman
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.
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