Summer Streets Returns to New York City This Weekend

For three consecutive Saturday mornings in August, the city of New York shuts down Park Avenue and connecting streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to vehicular traffic so that residents and visitors alike may enjoy the streets without the presence of cars and trucks. In this popular program of NYC DOT, many ride bicycles, some walk, and a few skate, but by whatever preferred means of transportation thousands of New Yorkers have been taking advantage of the Saturdays to exercise and to explore the streets in this novel way.

Summer Streets 2010
image of Summer Streets from 2010,
looking south to the Helmsley Building and the MetLife Building.
Lever House is on the right.

Summer Streets for August 2011 will take place August  6, 13, and 20 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. According to DOT, this year's iteration will feature sand boxes and live sand sculpting by Matt Long in Foley Square, free bicycle and rollerblade rentals, performances by Fringe Jr. Festival, and even a guacamole making demonstration.

The event also offers a rare opportunity to look at some of the city's great architecture from a new perspective. Sitting in a moving car, a driver can't fully enjoy urban architecture, or they shouldn't be, and even passengers who might be interested in sightseeing can't see through the roof of the car (unless they are in a convertible) in order to admire the top floors of buildings. On normal days, walking along the sidewalk allows views of the opposite street, but being able to walk in the middle of the street opens up a whole new world. It's a giddy feeling, this sense of the city and the sky, the kind of freedom you get marching in a parade. Biking the route may be the most pleasurable, because it allows the easiest and fastest access to all 6.9 miles of the route.

Summer Streets 2010
Summer Streets, 2010. Near Astor Place looking south to Lafayette, the Lower Manhattan thoroughfare
closed for traffic. Charles Gwathmey's Sculpture for Living is on the left.

An Architectural Guide to NYC's Summer Streets -

View Architectural Highlights Along NYC's Summer Streets: in a larger map

This map features architectural highlights along NYC's Summer Streets route. Buildings are listed from the south to the north. Many graceful late nineteenth-century buildings line the route, especially to the south in the older sections of the city. The stretch of Park Avenue north of Grand Central features some of the most important buildings in the history of modern architecture - the MetLife Building, the Seagram Building (look for Urs Fischer's Bear!), and the Lever House, among them. Turning west on 72nd Street and into Central Park simply opens up another adventure.

Summer Streets is not just for exercise or a good strategy for sustainable cities. It can be an exciting course in Architecture 101, afoot or on wheels.

Please see NYC DOT's Summer Street website for official site map and information about the event.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. 

New on Walking Off the Big Apple

Sailing Off the Big Apple

Sailing Off the Big Apple
A new sister site from Walking Off the Big Apple

Popular Posts