Case Studies

New York: Play Streets

In 2008, neighbors in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens, New York City, wanted to turn a wide, underused street next to Travers Park into a weekend play street. Ron Hayduk, a member of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, reached out to the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) and discovered that the original play-street applications, dating back to 1910, were obsolete. With the support of the Community Board and the local advocacy organization, Transportation Alternatives, community groups and the city developed an agreement to resolve liability and insurance concerns: DOT would be liable for safety and maintenance while the neighbors would be responsible for opening and closing the street and maintaining a volunteer presence throughout the closure.

This pilot program was such a resounding success that the City simplified its Play Streets permitting process to make it easier for more neighborhoods to do the same. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) now administers the program. The permitting process consists of the following: If 51% of residents living on a one-way residential block sign a petition, they can submit the petition to local police and transportation officials, who submit it to the local community board for review. If approved, the City parks department provides youth workers to organize the seasonal program.

Transportation Alternatives, alongside the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health and DOHMH documented play streets best practices and recommendations for existing and future community organizers.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.