All the brouhaha around the 34th Avenue Open Street notwithstanding, the 1.3-mile stretch in Jackson Heights is now an award-winning car-free zone.
The Alfresco Awards — a new prize created by the Regional Plan Association, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Design Trust for Public Space, and New York Community Trust — have honored outdoor dining structures, Open Streets, and collaborative neighborhood efforts that emerged during the pandemic.
“The work continues to make outdoor dining and Open Streets a permanent fixture of the city, but these winners show us what a future with equitable and people-focused streetscapes looks like,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Renae Reynolds in a statement.
In addition to 34th Avenue, the award-winning Open Streets include TAMA Sundays in Brooklyn (Tompkins Avenue between Gates and Halsey Streets), Stapleton Saturdays in Staten Island (Van Duzer Street between Beach and Wright Streets), and Piazza di Belmont on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
“Launched in July 2020 as a response to the shutdown of indoor dining, we implemented this first-ever piazza-style al fresco dining plan on Arthur Avenue to help support local businesses in the Bronx’s Little Italy, many of which have been operating for over a century and survived the 1918 pandemic and Great Depression,” said Peter Madonia, the head of the Belmont Business Improvement District.
Oma Holloway, who coordinates the Tompkins Avenue/TAMA Sundays, said the program has been a success because they’ve worked with the locals, “We really need to have community input and not be afraid to negotiate and really make sure that people understand the importance and have a vested interest in it.”
The Alfresco Award-winners, which were selected by a panel of journalists, transportation experts, and hospitality industry professionals, also received $500 prizes.
According to the organizers, winning restaurants were chosen based on their use of sustainable materials, their accessibility, and the overall visual style of their outdoor dining arrangements.
For example, Peaches Kitchen and Bar, a Black-owned restaurant on Lewis Avenue in Brooklyn, was recognized for its use of upcycled plastic bottles to construct its “friendship cabin” dining booths.
Along with Open Streets and individual restaurants, two awards went to collaborative efforts to transform street space in a given neighborhood.
One award went to a group called Assembly for Chinatown, which created outdoor dining spaces that local restaurants could use, but at no cost to the struggling businesses themselves. And in Koreatown, a group of second-story restaurants came together to form Maiden Korea, a shared seating set-up in a nearby vacant lot.
“Not too long ago, this was a demolition site whose hopes and dreams were also crushed by the pandemic,” said Edward Song, a Maiden Korea organizer. “Though our team was impacted — we lost all our restaurants — we mustered the courage to take on a bigger problem, the vibrancy of Koreatown, as a way to move forward.”
Below is the complete list of winning restaurants:
Casa La Femme
140 Charles Street, Manhattan
210 10th Avenue, Mahattan
704 Bay Street, Staten Island
65 Kent Ave, Brooklyn
Peaches Kitchen and Bar
393 Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn
37-17 30th Ave, Queens
Boogie Down Grind
868 Hunts Point Ave, The Bronx
Additional reporting by Katherine Fung