12. Identify neighborhood/district Open Street representatives to oversee in-person and on-the-ground outreach.

WHYStakeholders shared their challenges in navigating the Open Streets and Open Restaurants permitting processes as they evolved through the pandemic without clear communication from City agencies. In addition, the lack of clarity on program requirements and guidelines, as well as limited interagency coordination, and mixed (and often slow) responses from City agencies around rulese and regulations of the program, meant that businesses, organizations, and communities that had not received sufficient technical support from the City were prone to being found non-compliant and penalized by enforcement agencies.

“We found it was especially helpful to talk to people in-person because of the atypical restaurants: lots of second floor and basement restaurants. So while a diagram is a good place to start, face-to-face to respond to people’s particular needs is best. A translated online application is not enough, especially for older business owners who may not be as digitally savvy.”
A + A + A studio, Chinatown

︎ A User Experience
︎ B Long-Term Coordination
︎ C Inclusive Design
︎ D Collaboration and Communication
︎ E Support commerce and entrepreneurship

︎ Process / Regulatory Framework
︎ Funding
︎ Technical Assistance

HOW TO IMPLEMENT As part of the permanent Open Streets program managed by the DOT (Public Space Unit), the Agency, with support of Borough Offices, should consider compensating on-the-ground outreach and engagement specialists whose main responsibilities are to effectively communicate all Open Street design, planning, programming processes to local residents and stakeholders.

These Open Street Liaisons should either be identified by Open Streets applicants (through the application form “Outreach Plan Section”), or appointed by DOT Borough Offices, and should serve as ombudsman between the DOT and local communities for all matters relating to the local Open Street. The Liaison should be responsible for recording stakeholder engagement feedback and reporting back to the DOT, as well as measuring impacts of the Open Streets that they each oversee (using standard metrics and evaluation methodologies determined by the DOT). 

Currently, there is no accountability measure in place to ensure that Open Streets applicants conduct robust outreach and engagement with local stakeholders, even if their intention to do so is laid out in the outreach plan submitted during the application process. With the proposed Public Realm Working Group’s suite of community outreach and engagement resources and training programs (see previous recommendation), Open Street Liaisons would be armed with the right resources to lead outreach and engagement on behalf of the DOT’s local Open Streets.

Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  

A diverse group of people perform a line dance at an Avenue NYC event in Long Island City, Queens.

Avenue NYC

City of New York, NY

The Avenue NYC program by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is a model organizational development grant program that provides neighborhoods with technical assistance by funding a temporary staff role at a community-based organization. Avenue NYC managers are each trained to use a standard methodology and evaluation framework to diagnose market opportunities in local commercial districts. Findings from their evaluations are made publicly available each year and enable the SBS to compare needs across commercial districts in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods. A similar program design may be applied by the DOT to create funded roles for Open Streets Liaisons and standard evaluation frameworks.

Neighborhood Open Streets How-To Guide

City of Kansas City, MO

The Neighborhood Open Streets How-To Guide provides community partners with a robust resource for planning, setting up, evaluating, and tearing down Open Streets quickly and cheaply. 

Learn more: Kansas City Open Streets How-to-Guide

Cover of the KCMO Neighborhood Open Streets How-To Guide, featuring an illustration of the outline of the state of Missouri, filled with figures running, scooting, and biking.
︎ KCMO Public Works

The DOT would directly benefit from the support of well-trained and well-resourced community-based partners who can conduct on-the-ground outreach and engagement more effectively. These groups are familiar faces to local residents and businesses. They often have long-standing, trusted relationships with key stakeholders in the community that can help reduce contentiousness and misperceptions of any public realm programs and planning or design efforts. Most importantly, community-based partners can help reframe any local issues into relevant questions for City agencies, and share relevant communications from City agencies with their communities in accessible language.