The City of Newburgh held the last weekend of its Liberty Street pilot closure this past weekend.
Starting on July 10, the section of Liberty Street between Ann Street and Washington Street was closed to traffic every Friday to Saturday.
Alexandra Church, Newburgh’s Director of Planning and Development, said that the city has received mixed feedback to the pilot closure.
“The businesses, the restaurant businesses are having a relatively good time,” said Church. “It’s really helpful for them to have outdoor seating.”
During the inaugural weekend of the pilot closure, the environment was somber due to rain. As the weekends went on, more events were planned and more people started to come out to Liberty Street.
“I think there was some good energy on the streets,” said Church. “Getting people downtown, still trying to keep people distant. I got some feedback that people weren’t being distant, but the business owners all assured me that this weekend, they will be much more diligent in making sure that people stay relatively separate.”
Initially, the city was interested in adding Sunday to the pilot closure but due to feedback from residents, they decided against it.
“So we’re using this as a learning experience, and then you know [we’ll] potentially roll it out in other neighborhoods,” said Church.
One of the benefits of the pilot closure is that the city was able to compile a detailed list of all the businesses on Liberty Street.
Church plans to reach out to all the businesses involved in the pilot closure for a one on one conversation on how it went. She plans to ask about how committed businesses are, and pros and cons. She will check how intent businesses are on proceeding with a new and improved closure. She will also check if the city council is interested in proceeding.
Any other closure ideas will not go past the time when people would be comfortable eating outside.
Church said that it’s really different eating at restaurants in the midst of the current pandemic. She also said that the atmosphere is now different for retailers in general.
“So there’s that two fold thing. Even though people are allowed to eat inside, they may not go to restaurants because they don’t feel comfortable eating inside,” said Church.
The city is trying to abide by the law and the comfort levels of residents and visitors. The city is also doing street closures in Downing Park.
Church said she received positive feedback for the Downing Park street closures. Many residents are taking advantage of the closures to teach children how to bike.
This week, the city is continuing its rolling slow streets initiative. Although the slow streets initiative aren’t the same as the pilot closure, signs are placed that say watch for children.
Also barricades are put around different neighborhoods to force drivers to slow down. The city is hoping to expand play areas for children in really dense neighborhoods. The model of inspiration came from the west coast.
The city is essentially attempting to expand sidewalk space for pedestrians, and children. The city is also offering play packs for families in denser neighborhoods. Play packs are large bins full of items like hula hoops, and jump ropes.
Most of the money for these initiatives come from grants. None of the money comes from municipal funding.
The city plans to have drive-in and walk-in movies at the Ann Street parking lot during the four Thursdays in August.