Later today, bustling Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, will be alive with the sounds of families and neighbors laughing, playing and having fun together.
Let the kiddos go wild and express their inner Picasso by making Instagram-worthy chalk murals on the Ditmars Boulevard Open Street, located at 21-78 35th St., from 5 to 8 p.m. Grownups can join in and create their own masterpieces as well.
Thanks to Lyft and The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), Street Lab — a nonprofit that provides programs for public spaces across New York City — will be bringing cool pop-up learning experiences to the neighborhood: Street Marker, a drawing environment that is specially designed so multiple people can make beautiful chalk patterns and artwork together, as well as PLAY NYC, which features a colorful obstacle course that offers safe, hands-free play for children on closed-off streets.
This event will help celebrate the expansion of Citi Bike stations in the area.
“Street Lab has been supporting Open Streets across NYC all year, and we’re excited to be landing on Ditmars Boulevard with two programs, PLAY and Street Marker. Our goal is to help transform the street into a place where New Yorkers can gather and feel good about their neighborhood and their city,” Leslie Davol, Street Lab’s co-founder and executive director, said. “And Queens is a wonderful place to do this kind of work — you meet so many people from all walks of life when public spaces like Open Streets are created and made welcoming to all.”
The pandemic made many people realize how important it is to have outdoor spaces in their neighborhoods, where residents can hang out, shoot the breeze and be close to home. And now there are more safe areas with no cars, where kids and teens can meet friends, ride bikes and rollerblade, or grab a bite and just enjoy getting out of the house and away from those devices – which is crucial to their emotional and physical well-being.
Across the five boroughs, creatives have been feeling the excitement. Street Lab has expanded their partnerships with local artists and musicians, while finding new ways to connect them to audiences in a safe, open-air setting. Bored and stressed-out New Yorkers can now enjoy some free arts and entertainment, thanks to talented visual artists, classical and jazz musicians, and more— all on the streets of their fair city. The nonprofit is currently showcasing street exhibitions by NYC Artist Corps Grant recipients.
When the City Council voted to make the Open Street program permanent in NYC and expand the car-free outdoor spaces in underserved neighborhoods, advocates for a greener city were very happy — but drivers, not so much.
“Open Streets have fundamentally transformed the relationship New Yorkers have with their neighborhoods,” DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman said. “We’re reclaiming space from cars while promoting educational and cultural activities and helping our neighbors embrace the bike boom in our city. I want to thank the communities, elected officials, and Lyft for supporting Open Streets, which are quickly becoming integral to our neighborhoods.”
In an effort to bring programming outdoors — in a safe, open-air setting — during COVID, Street Lab has expanded their partnerships with NYC arts and cultural institutions, like Queens Museum, and most recently, the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs New York City Artist Corps.
The nonprofit is adding one hundred new activations on the streets of New York, that will support neighborhoods hit hard by COVID, while using this moment to make good use of public space in ways that include, connect, and lift up every New Yorker. And who doesn’t need some “uplifting” right about now?