It’s open season on the city’s “open streets.”
Drivers across town are brazenly tossing aside street-blocking barriers set up as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to provide outdoor recreation space amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Frustrated New Yorkers told The Post they’ve had to take enforcement of the street closures into their own hands as motorists flaunt the program — and that it has even sparked tug-of-wars between neighbors.
Protestors supporting City Workers4Justice—an activist organization for city employees, rally outside City Hall Thursday, June 25, 2020, in New York, and call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to defund the NYPD. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
“Within the first week it was clear that some neighbors did not like the impediment of the open street barrier, so they would just take it down,” Noel Hidalgo, of Greenpoint, said of the traffic clot on Berry Street between North 12th Street and Broadway.
“It’s been a war of attrition, to the point that yesterday the remaining twigs of one wooden blue barrier were pulverized by a driver.”
Launched in mid-May, de Blasio’s “Open Streets” initiative has so far restricted motorists from about 67 miles of Big Apple roads, with the aim to close off 100 miles so residents can get fresh air while still social distancing.
While the “open streets” are in effect between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., motorists making deliveries or dropping people off are still allowed to drive through slowly, and utility, emergency and city service vehicles are OK, too.
But despite the ban on unnecessary traffic, some drivers have been taking back the supposedly pedestrian-only plazas, and moving the wooden blue and metal NYPD blockades so they can get through, residents in multiple locations told The Post.
“Drivers get around the barricade, they just move it,” said Larry Barbieri about a closure on East Seventh Street between Caton and Ditmas avenues in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
Cars on East Seventh Street were spotted driving around barricades set up along intersections on Friday, including one that was smashed to bits.
Barbieri, the owner of a landscaping business, said he didn’t agree with the street closure in his neighborhood, arguing that it was unnecessary since playgrounds are open and that “it screws up the traffic.”
But Cynthia King, the owner of a nearby dance studio, said she and other residents like the closure and have been putting the barriers back up when they’re moved.
“We keep putting them back up,” King said. “I live on the block and I love the street closure… It’s nice to have all the neighbors out and socializing more.”
“I am mostly a driver but I definitely prefer closed streets over access to the road,” King added.
A City Hall spokesman said enforcing the open streets is a collective responsibility, with the Department of Transportation, local NYPD precincts and community organizations all pitching in.
“The vast majority of drivers respect the program,” Mitch Schwartz said in a statement.
“DOT patrols the closures with in-person checks and social media monitoring, and they work with relevant agencies like the NYPD to fix issues as they arise.”
An NYPD spokeswoman said the department doesn’t track the number of complaints for broken barriers but that, “As we become aware of broken or damaged barriers, we replace them.”
“The barriers are checked on by community volunteers and partners, DOT personnel and NYPD officers from the local precinct.”
But some of the “open streets” have sparked bitter fights between neighbors, with some trying to enforce the closures and others rebelling against them.
On Ascan Avenue in Forest Hills, Queens, drivers were seen last week simply veering around the barrier and zipping down the block, which feeds into busy Queens Boulevard, for most of the day.
Sometime in the afternoon, parents come to reestablish the metal barriers — then the tiffs begin, locals said.
“They make me explode!” Carmine Polito, 67, said of a man playing football with his son next to the outdoor dining set-up at Portofino Restaurant, which he’s owned and operated for 46 years.
“I say people are trying to eat dinner, can you play down the street or in the park? He say, ‘So what?!’ Looked at me like I’m nuts! So I say, I’m opening the barricade! ” Polito said.
“They are supposed to have a cop here. There is no cop here,” he added.
Arlind Belegu, a building superintendent on the block, said fights between parents who want their children to play in the open space and others on the block can get heated.
“A parent threatened my doorman,” Belegu said. “His kid was playing on the steps and my doorman asked him to stop the parent said to my doorman, ‘You touch my kid and I’ll knock you out!’”
Meanwhile, a dad in Crown Heights said it took just a day from when the block-long closure on Prospect Place between Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue launched for someone to move the barriers.
“I sent my kids out there when it opened. By the next day, we couldn’t do it,” said John Buckholz. “By the time the kids had gotten the barriers up one side of the block, someone had moved them aside on the other side.”
Buckholz said he takes his kids to open streets in other neighborhoods so they can ride their bikes in the street. He faulted the city for failing to effectively communicate the purpose and rules of the program, and said the closure near his home was doomed from the start.
“It was put up haphazardly and with little community notice,” he said. “De Blasio didn’t care about this or want to do it, and it shows.”
The City Hall spokesman said: “We have more work to do, but we’re committed to providing all New Yorkers with the breath of fresh air they deserve.”