Astoria restaurant, Jackson Heights Open Street honored with inaugural Alfresco Awards

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The 34th Avenue Open Streets program in Jackson Heights and Blend Astoria restaurant are among the recipients of the inaugural Alfresco Awards. (Photo courtesy of Alfresco NYC)

A restaurant in Astoria and the 34th Avenue Open Street in Jackson Heights are the recipients of the inaugural Alfresco Awards, prizes for “exemplary outdoor dining structures, open streets and collaborative efforts” awarded across the five boroughs by Alfresco NYC.

Led by Design Trust for Public Space, Regional Plan Association (RPA) and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Alfresco coalition strongly supports permanent Open Restaurants and Open Streets programs.

The coalition is developing design guidelines for outdoor structures to ensure they are affordable and sustainable for small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and fit with the city’s complex ecosystem of public space. The project is made possible by the New York Community Trust.

The inaugural Alfresco award winners, selected by a jury of journalists, restaurant and economic development professionals and mobility advocates, will receive $500 honorariums to acknowledge their exceptional design efforts during a trying time.

“Today is a celebration of outdoor dining and open streets, as well as an acknowledgement of how New Yorkers came together in one of our darkest hours to make our city more sustainable, equitable and accessible,” Regional Plan Association President Tom Wright said. “We congratulate all of the winners for prevailing in a stiff competition with establishments in every borough that brought creative and innovative design to life. The winners all provide real guideposts for how outdoor dining and open streets can be implemented at their very best.”

New York City’s Open Restaurants Program comprises more than 11,000 eateries, including nearly 6,000 that have set up shop along 60 miles of car-free streets.

In Queens, Blend Astoria, located at 37-17 30th Ave., was named as one of NYC’s best outdoor dining setups. The neighborhood Latin American staple “creates a fully outdoor experience, with seamless design and color coordination that significantly enhances the vibe,” according to the coalition.

Blend Astoria, located at 37-17 30th Ave. (Photo courtesy of Alfresco NYC)
Blend Astoria restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Alfresco NYC)

An Alfresco Award was bestowed on the 34th Avenue Open Street in Jackson Heights for its “strong multigenerational programming, engagement and organizing have turned the community from 69th Street to 94th Street in Jackson Heights into its own, dynamic linear street park.”

Children’s foot races, Zumba classes for adults, arts and crafts and other activities have become a normal occurrence along the 1.3-mile stretch of 34th Avenue.

“Jackson Heights is one of the densest neighborhoods in Queens and ranks among those with the least amount of park space. Open Streets has given us the open space we sorely lacked,” 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition Co-Founder Jim Burke said. “We have exchanged pollution, noise and injuries for fresh air, tranquility and safety while building and strengthening our community. We are thrilled to receive the Alfresco Award as it celebrates our volunteers who work tirelessly day in and day out to enliven our streets with programming and keep our residents safe.”

Open Streets at 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights. (Photo courtesy of Alfresco NYC)

In late April, the City Council made the 34th Avenue Open Streets program permanent.

“It’s about time we started making our public spaces public again,” Jackson Heights Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “Seeing children and pedestrians using space that was once reserved only for cars brings a smile to my face. I stand with my colleagues in support of this legislation and look forward to bringing more Open Streets to Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.”

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