HOBOKEN, NJ — With restrictions easing, the demand for recreational space in densely populated areas is requiring a unique approach. Last weekend, Hoboken opened its Jefferson Street from 3rd through 11th Streets to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, while still allowing residents of the street to come and go in vehicles with help from attending police officers.
"I think the Jefferson St. pilot went off the best way it could have," said Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante. "Minimal complaints and logistical issues, excellent social distancing and mask wearing—having streets closed to vehicular traffic deeper into the city like Jefferson, makes this program a positive one for residents."
Ferrante seemingly wasn't alone in his assessment, as an overwhelming number of respondents to the City's poll on open streets are thus far in favor of seeing the program return.
According to Mayor Ravi Bhalla, over 1,500 people have participated in the poll. Sources have shared with preliminary results with TAPinto, showing that the ratio of positive response is nearly 8 to 1. "We will be providing the results of this survey in the coming days, and will use this information as we plan for a potential next phase of our open street initiative," said Bhalla.
Amid the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, local officials weathered a steady stream of criticism on social media for their unwillingness to open spaces for travel and/or recreation. At the time, authorities maintained that the public health risk and logistical concerns for the safety of frontline personnel superseded the squeaky wheels clamoring for more space. With COVID-19 cases currently trending in the right direction, those same authorities are now willing to make conditional accommodations.
"If we did this on Sinatra Drive, it would have been a huge welcome mat for out-of-towners," said Ferrante, "and with our COVID numbers drastically better than surrounding cities, I believe that could have presented a negative issue for us."
Hoboken is taking any feedback on board as they evaluate the possible return of this initiative. Anyone interested in filling out the survey, please visit http://www.hobokennj.gov/openstreetssurvey.
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