New Yorkers have remarked that the city’s new open streets programs and outdoor dining have lent the city the air of Paris or New Orleans. As a result, a new appreciation for public spaces and outdoor experiences has blossomed among residents. Open Boulevards, organized in part by New York’s Department of Transportation, aims to sustain this trend through a series of free performances and culinary experiences staged across the five boroughs this summer.
Similar to other initiatives and programs launched by the city recently, Open Boulevards aims to revitalize the city by providing a vital boost to local businesses, providing free entertainment, and, simultaneously, supporting the city’s battered performing arts community. Various vendors will be present at each staging. And the performances will capture the full breadth of New York’s vibrant art scene, featuring spoken word artists, modern dance, music spanning indie rock to Latin jazz, and comedians. The performance series, taking place from July to October, will include stops in Park Slope Fifth Avenue (Brooklyn), Columbus Avenue (Manhattan), Ditmars Boulevard (Queens), Arthur Avenue (Bronx), Vanderbilt Avenue (Brooklyn), Sunset Park Fifth Avenue (Brooklyn), Alexander Avenue (Bronx), Minthorne Street (Staten Island), and Woodside Avenue (Queens).
Rendering by Rockwall Group
Ideally, Open Boulevards will contribute to an ever-growing shift in perception, both among residents and public officials, around the utility of public and accessible spaces. The summer program comes after Mayor de Blasio signed legislation in May that officially made open streets in New York a “permanent feature. This week, Governor Cuomo approved the continuation of outdoor dining for at least another year.
“This initiative is just one part of our Public Space Activations plan for the summer,” Sean Quinn, an official at the New York Department of Transportation, said of Open Boulevards. He says the department also plans to bring pop-up learning, a circus, free theater, and more activities to other open streets across the city — “with a particular emphasis on the top 33 communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
Here are some standout events from the Open Boulevards:
July 10, 2pm–6:30pm: Open Boulevards Performance Series Kick-Off Event on Columbus Avenue @ 107th Street in partnership with the Columbus/Amsterdam Business Improvement District. Performances by Mambembé NY; Keith Nelson from Bindlestiff Family Cirkus; It’s Showtime NYC!; Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance; and Sonido Costeño.
July 17: Songkran Music & Cultural Celebration on Woodside Avenue in Queens in partnership with Thai Community USA and Juttana Rimrearteate.
August 14: B’Rhythm presented by Jiva Dance | Jiva Performing Arts on Garfield Place in Brooklyn.