Weeksville(an Open Streets partner) in Brooklyn

Departments of Transportation and Cultural Affairs join to encourage expansion of New York City’s network of car-free streets this year, with a focus on communities with fewer Open Streets and cultural institutions who have not partnered before; First application deadline is January 31st 

City committing $5 million in annual funding to community partners for operations and maintenance of Open Streets

New York City Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo today joined forces to call attention to the opportunities available for cultural organizations and community groups to host, manage, and program activities along New York City’s growing network of Open Streets. The program, which has already transformed hundreds of City streets into car-free public space open to all, encourages a range of activities that promote economic development, support schools, and provide new avenues for New Yorkers to enjoy cultural programming and build community. The Open Streets application, with a first deadline of January 31st, can be found here.

“During winter, we may think less about being outside, but it is never too early for community groups to plan for the exciting and warmer months ahead when our incredible Open Streets network really blossoms,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Under Mayor Eric Adams’ leadership and through his strong commitment to a more equitable city, we have resources available to help more community groups to become Open Street partners. And with the support of Commissioner Cumbo and the Department of Cultural Affairs, we are now making a special effort to engage New York City’s incredible network of cultural institutions, which are so often the physical and social anchors of their communities – and whom we know could also make great Open Street partners.” 

“In New York City, art and culture are the bedrock of our communities. DOT’s visionary Open Streets program gives us a way to expand culture’s role in our neighborhoods and transform city streets into spaces for arts programming, performances, and social connections,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “I join my brother Commissioner Rodriguez in encouraging our cultural community to consider applying to manage or program an Open Street this year. New York City is back, and connecting with residents through this incredible initiative is one more way our cultural community can continue to drive our recovery forward.”

Since 2020, New York City has worked with a range of community-based organizations, educational institutions, and groups of businesses to execute Open Streets citywide. Last year, the Open Streets program allowed New Yorkers to enjoy more vibrant public space at over 150 locations that covered a total of approximately 300 blocks.

Today’s announcement, made at the Weeksville Heritage Center (an Open Streets partner) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, encouraged new organizations – especially cultural institutions – to apply to be partners, with a focus on Priority Investment Areas identified in the NYC Streets Plan – communities that may have seen fewer Open Streets in past years. Cultural organizations are being encouraged to use Open Streets and other public spaces for events and performances. NYC DOT’s Public Space Programming initiative also assists cultural organizations with accessing spaces where they can present programming. In addition to today’s announcement at the Weeksville Heritage Center, the Department Cultural Affairs today also sent notification to the more than 1,000 groups within its network encouraging them to consider this opportunity to expand cultural access for all New Yorkers.

As Open Street partners, not-profit community groups and institutions are eligible for city funding to assist in operations and maintenance (see details below). In 2023, as the program expands further, both new and returning partners need to apply to DOT to manage Open Streets in their communities. Returning partners can complete a streamlined application by providing their 2022 application ID. New partners must submit a full application.Cultural groups can apply either to serve as a steward of their own Open Street locations they identify within their communities, or to partner with other program partners to provide programming on existing Open Streets locations. For Open Streets launching on or before June 30th, 2023, the application deadline is January 31st, 2023.For Open Streets launching after June 30th, the deadline is April 14th, 2023.

NYC DOT Funding and Public Space Equity Program

Under the leadership of the Mayor and City Council, NYC DOT is committing over $5 million in annual funding to community partners for operations and maintenance of Open Streets. The funding is scalable based on the size and scale of an Open Street, as well as equity goals set forth by the NYC Streets Plan. To receive funding, community partners must be a not-for-profit. Through its contractors, NYC DOT can offer a full suite of operational and maintenance services for up to 30 high need Open Streets locations. Community partners do not need to apply for these services and all applications will be considered to receive them. Sites are chosen by considering partner capacity, as well as equity goals set forth in the NYC Streets Plan.

Public Space Programming

NYC’s Public Space Programming initiative brings activities to public spaces, such as Open Streets. The initiative offers a variety of programming that includes arts, culture, fitness, and educational experiences. NYC DOT has created a catalogue of Public Space Programming providers that are available to activate Open Streets, plazas, and other public spaces. Community groups and cultural organizations should visit Public Space Programming for more information and to explore the catalogue.

About Weeksville Heritage Center: Weeksville Heritage Center is an historic site and cultural center in Central Brooklyn that uses education, arts, and a social justice lens to preserve, document, and inspire engagement with the history of Weeksville (one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America) and the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses.WHC hosts leading activists, artists, writers, educators, and community members as they explore the Black experience and the process of community-making. Through these engagements, our historic Hunterfly Road House tours, and other programming, we hope to educate, enrich and inspire generations to come with a tactile connection to our history.

“The Open Streets program is a transformative opportunity for small businesses, restaurants, and entire neighborhoods,”said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I would love to see more New Yorkers — especially in Brooklyn — join the movement to convert our streets into public spaces that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Open Streets in 2023, and I thank DOT Commissioner Rodriguez and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Cumbo for leading this effort.”

“Open streets proved to be a striking success, bringing energy and community to our blocks as well as much-needed economic activity to our small businesses,” said New York City Council Member Chi Ossé, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. “I am glad to see it return. I strongly encourage business owners and community groups in my district to learn more and get involved, both for their benefit and for the benefit of the whole neighborhood. The Streets of New York are for the people.”

“The Open Streets program has had a dramatic, positive effect on New York residents the past few years, bringing safety, economic development, and a greater sense of community to our neighborhoods,” said Ken Podziba, President & CEO of Bike New York. “As a nonprofit that teaches New Yorkers how to ride bikes with proper safety skills on Open Streets, Bike New York encourages other organizations and cultural institutions to engage with their local communities through this important program.”

“Partnering with DOT was crucial to the success of Dance Party NYC,” said Aidan Flax-Clark, Associate Director, Public Programs, The New York Public Library. “From Salsa in the South Bronx to Ballroom lessons in Sunnyside, from disco DJs in Staten Island to a family dance party in Harlem, Open Streets brought the music to all five boroughs, and ensured that Dance Party NYC was a truly citywide event.” 

“Open Streets makes arts & culture programming directly accessible to both artists and audiences,” said Karesia Batan, Executive Director Queensboro Dance Festival. “It encourages artists to engage more in their local neighborhoods, fosters collaboration within the community, and inspires audiences to appreciate local artists. It’s the next way for New Yorkers to envision sharing outdoor public space.”

“The Open Streets program is a phenomenal initiative for small performing arts nonprofits like MORE Opera,” said Cheryl Warfield, Artistic Director, MORE Opera. “We are reaching new audiences, building ties in outer borough communities, and fulfilling our mission to bring quality vocal arts programs directly families and youth throughout NYC in safe outdoor performance spaces, free of charge to the public. This is what makes NYC great!”