Summer may feel over but, with temperatures poised to stay in the mid-70s and high 60s for a few more weeks, Brooklyn’s open streets will remain just that — open — to provide locals and visitors alike with the space to safely enjoy themselves while they still can in the great outdoors.
A prime example of a Kings County “Open Street” ready to keep rocking is Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue. The eight-block corridor famous for its local businesses, diversity and primo spot near Brooklyn’s Backyard has been packed every weekend of the summer. Complete with its own social media presence, the stretch of street connecting Prospect Heights with Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park is one of Brooklyn’s car-free open streets.
The city’s Open Streets program dates back more than two years ago, to the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when the Department of Transportation closed off select streets to through traffic to open up more space for socially-distanced socialization and programming.
The mostly volunteer-run program closes selected streets to through traffic at different times during the week — some are blocked off every weekday, some on weekends, some just for a few hours during school days — still allowing local traffic for those who live on the open street.
Vanderbilt is no different, having become a safe haven for pedestrians, patrons of the corridor’s businesses and even performers. The community programming by The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council changes every weekend.
And organizers plan to bring the same energy they’ve possessed all summer into the open street’s last remaining weeks. Just this past weekend, the Vanderbilt Avenue Open Streets Committee anticipated spillover from the nearby West Indian Day parade.
“The whole weekend will be popping with West Indian Day festivities which we imagine, and hope, will spill on to the avenue,” said Katherine Pangaro, chair of the Vanderbilt Avenue Open Streets Committee.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Vanderbilt open street will turn into a circus. There will be music, magic, juggling and sword swallowing featuring Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Flatbed Follies.
The next day, the African Peach Arts Coalition will host poets from across Brooklyn and the entire city for a spoken word installation starting at 3 p.m.
The following weekend, Mexican restaurant Alta Calidad will host a quesadilla cooking class for kids on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. Not long after, at 4 p.m., adults can get in on free salsa lessons, capped with the corridor’s final dance party of the season, featuring live music from DJ Kun and Grupo Tumbao.
Finally, on Saturday, Sept. 24, Brooklynites can join Color Architects for an afternoon of arts and crafts from 2 to 4 p.m. At 5 p.m. local poets and artists will once again share their work and on Sunday, Smokey Vale — a concept store, gallery, and barbershop dedicated to building community through individuality — will host a lesson on tie-dying.
The 2022 Open Streets season runs through Nov. 20.
Looking ahead to next year, Pangaro said the Vanderbilt Avenue Open Streets Committee and Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council are looking to keep things environmentally friendly by partnering with the Center for Zero Waste Design to better manage the waste created along the thoroughfare during programming.
For more information on the city’s Open Streets program, visit the Department of Transportation’s website.
Additional reporting by Kirstyn Brendlen