Study Finds 2022 Fifth Avenue Holiday Open Streets an Economic Success

Ribbon from the opening celebration of the Fifth Avenue Holiday Open Streets initiative last winter. Image Credit: Violet Mendelsund/Mayoral Photo Office.

On October 10, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the ‘Open Streets’ holiday initiative along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan last holiday season was an economic success. During the initiative, the Department of Transportation and the Fifth Avenue Association created pedestrianized stretches of Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, West 49th Street, and West 50th Street between 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm on select Sundays in December.

The initiative created an extra $3 million in spending at businesses on the pedestrianized streets and around 6.6 percent increased spending for other blocks close in proximity.  Overall, business along open streets saw 13.9 percent more transactions that others, and merchants saw an average of $90,000 in additional spending each day. The findings were part of a new study conducted by Mastercard along with the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) and Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu.

The success of the ‘Open Streets’ holiday initiative launched Mayor Adams’ “Future of Fifth ” partnership between New York City and four key business improvement districts and civic organizations: Fifth Avenue Association, Grand Central Partnership, Bryant Park Corporation, and the Central Park Conservancy. The partnership seeks to foster a safer, less congested, and pedestrian centered boulevard along Fifth Avenue. To assist the partnership in community engagement, design and planning four main engineers with 10 additional consulting firms have been hired. The consultant team has four main members: Arcadis, Sam Schwartz, Field Operations, and Public Works Partners and is supported by Gehl, BJH Advisors, SiteWorks, JKMuir, Tillotson Design, Toscano Clements Taylor, MFS Engineers and Surveyors, Gallas Survey Group, Introba, and TYLin/Silman. Seven out of 14 of these firms are minority and women-owned businesses.

The “Future of Fifth” partnership and consulting team will begin designing this year and will release a comprehensive plan and design mid-2024. The finalized design will be released in early 2025 and the entire process will be open to public feedback.

Mayor Adams said, “Open Streets were an essential part of our city’s economic recovery, and they will continue to be a core part of our city’s future. The research is clear that Open Streets bring more people to our city’s public spaces, more business to our city’s stores, and more jobs to New Yorkers. That’s why we are reimagining Fifth Avenue as a safer, less congested, pedestrian-centered boulevard that also prioritizes public space, mass transit, and cyclists. That’s why we are excited to establish this public-private partnership and bring on this team of exceptional partners who will help us ensure that businesses and pedestrians can enjoy the benefits of a more open, accessible city – not just in December but all year round.”

Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said, “The data is clear: When we give more space to people walking and biking, business thrives. That’s because our streets can accommodate far more people on foot than in cars – a key reason why businesses had such great success during our car-free holiday Open Streets. As we’ve seen in our ‘Streets for Recovery’ report, creating safe, welcoming spaces for people is a vital part of supporting our economy and recovery throughout New York City. DOT looks forward to the continued progress toward delivering a permanent redesign of Fifth Avenue that builds on this success.”

Madelyn Wils, chief advisor, Fifth Avenue Association; and co-chair, “Future of Fifth” Steering Committee said, “Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a much-needed effort to reimagine one of the world’s most famous and iconic avenues. We are excited to work with Mayor Adams and his administration to create a world-class promenade that is accessible and inviting to all. Our businesses continue to invest in this historic corridor and enliven the street every day, and the ‘Future of Fifth’ initiative will ensure that the avenue and its adjacent neighborhood remain a vital economic engine for the city well into the future. In the meantime, we encourage all New Yorkers to join us for an even more exciting Open Streets this holiday season and support the retailers, restaurants, and hotels that are an essential part of the fabric of New York City.”

By: Meg Beauregard (Meg is the CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024).

Mayor’s Office and the NYC Department of Transportation: “Mayor Adams Announces Holiday Season Open Streets Boosted Local Businesses by Millions of Dollars in 2022, Advances “Future of Fifth” Permanent Reimagining of Fifth Avenue” (Oct. 10, 2023).

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