At the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, The City of New York’s Department of Transportation (DOT) created the Open Streets program, an initiative to partially pedestrianize and limit vehicular traffic on key New York City blocks to make safe outdoor spaces available to communities.
Open Streets have been designated throughout New York City and when they function well, they are not only a safe respite from shelter at home efforts, but are also available for public schools and other institutions for safe operations, to restaurants for safe outdoor dining, and to communities who are limited in their access to public open space.
The physical mechanism to protect these Open Streets is a moveable barrier that restricts general automobile traffic but admits emergency vehicles, deliveries, pickups for the disabled community, and local traffic. In most neighborhoods, the most readily available barriers are NYPD sawhorses and French barriers that are cumbersome and require multiple individuals to set up and move. Because DOT and NYPD are not staffing these installations, neighborhoods and merchant groups must self-organize to ensure that their Open Streets stay open. This takes personnel, volunteers, and effort.
Design Advocates is working with a number of such groups to develop, prototype, and install easy to operate, mobile barriers to ensure that all communities, but especially those that are under-resourced and that are without functioning, volunteer-rich community nonprofits are able to keep their Open Streets open and available to all New Yorkers.