Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Kidfly 182
Sidewalk cafe in the East Village of Manhattan, May 2022

A lawsuit filed Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court seeks a federal injunction to end New York City’s “Open Streets” and restore unfettered access to the city’s byways.

The lawsuit names the city itself and various organizations who manage Open Street sites where occasionally some streets are closed off to vehicular traffic, as defendants.


This summer, more than 300 city blocks across the five boroughs are expected to take part in the program, which usually shuts down a street to vehicular traffic for a set number of hours per day. Much of the time, the program is aimed at enabling outdoor dining, public art displays, festivals and various community programs and performances.

The 12 disabled plaintiffs from Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, led by 94-year-old Jess Charles, who has Addison’s Disease, argue that doing so makes it impossible for seniors and those with disabilities – including those who live there — to successfully access those areas.

Charles, who lives on Avenue B in the East Village, explains in the court papers that he cannot be picked up at home by a car service – for medical appointments and social events – but instead must somehow get to a site two blocks away despite his limited ability to walk, due to Open Streets. Moreover, the last time the elderly man fell, paramedics who came to help had to “scramble to remove the barricades” to reach him.

Other plaintiffs had similar stories, including one who cannot find parking near her home due to Open Streets and thus must walk farther back and forth from her car and home.

According to the court papers filed Monday, “The program results in the de facto closure of New York City’s public avenues and streets to individuals with disabilities – whose only or primary access to the streets and to the buildings, businesses and services on the streets – is through the use of motor vehicles.”

The program is very popular: a 2021 Siena College survey commissioned by safe streets advocacy group Transportation Alternatives found that more than 60 percent of New Yorkers supported expansion of the Open Streets program in their own neighborhoods, amNY reported.

“Open Streets enhances safety, accessibility and equity for a large number of New Yorkers using the roads, including seniors and people with disabilities,” Department of Transportation spokesperson Scott Gastel said in response to the lawsuit.

“The City will review the case.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.