Community Board 5 votes to approve Open Street outside Middle Village elementary school

Middle Village
Open Street could come to Maspeth outside The Lorraine Tuzzo Juniper Valley Elementary School. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Queens Community Board 5 (QCB5) voted unanimously to approve an Open Street outside The Lorraine Tuzzo Juniper Elementary School in Middle Village to improve issues with vehicle access and parking.

The Open Street will shut down 65th Drive from 69th Place to 70th Street between 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. and 2 to 2:45 p.m. on school days starting Sept. 8.

Last month QNS reported that the Department of Transport (DOT) sent a letter to QCB5 which stated that the Open Street would operate from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on weekdays to promote safer pickups and drop-offs for students at P.S./I.S. 128Q.

“We’re proud to continue building on this program with more locations, and we look forward to reviewing community feedback,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said.

As this proposed Open Street is intended to support drop-off and pickup operations, it was unclear why it would be in operation for a large part of the day, closing the block off to vehicle access and parking for residents.

Gary Giordano, the district manager of Community Board 5, said that this was not at the request of Juniper Valley Elementary School.

“It was confirmed to me that the school only requested that the street be closed from 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. to facilitate drop-offs and between 2 and 2:45 p.m. for collections,” Giordano said.

Giordano received this confirmation from Albert Silvestri, the Queens deputy borough commissioner at the DOT.

The times that the Open Street will be in operation have since changed and vehicle access will be permitted under certain circumstances.

“We are informed that this Open Street will be managed by P.S./I.S. 128; that is for the safe arrival and dismissal of school students and that 65th Drive street access will be provided to block residents, emergency vehicles and school buses as needed,” Giordano said.

In the letter to the DOT approving the Open Street, QCB5 asked the department whether they intend to formalize the process of closing streets adjacent to schools to better ensure the safe arrival and dismissal of students.

“Considering that other schools may want to safeguard students during school arrival and dismissal times, to what extent is NYC DOT intending to formalize the process of closing streets adjacent to schools to better ensure the safe arrival and dismissal of students?”

In response, the DOT said that it encourages schools to formally apply so it can accommodate their requests.

“School-related Open Streets originally provided better physical distancing during the pandemic and continue to be embraced as a great way to repurpose streets for children to learn and play — as well as to help parents during pickup and drop-off. We strongly encourage schools to apply through our formal process and work closely with applicants to accommodate their requests,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said.