Stretching 1.3 miles through Jackson Heights, Queens, the 34th Avenue Open Street closes to vehicular traffic each morning and allows local residents to jog, stroll, ride bikes, and socialize while maintaining physical distance, without fear of cars.

34th Avenue Oral History is documenting the story of this remarkable street as it unfolds.
Learn more about the ongoing oral history project here.

Discover 34th Avenue through profiles of people who are reshaping their lives around the Open Street.

Listen below to learn what 34th Avenue means to some of the people who use it:

Rita Wade (Volunteer with 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition): The mayor declared Open Streets, 25 blocks of just a street that is meant for pedestrians and bikers.

Alvaro Tautiva (Owner of AT JiuJitsuNYC): 34th Avenue being open was crucial to all Jackson Heights residents. 

Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo (Co-Founder of 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition): Having a shared place, a shared space, so different people can come together and have a shared interaction. During the pandemic, 34th Avenue has become that shared space. 

Alvaro: Just the freedom to be able to walk, to be able to social distance, to play with your kids. 

Rita: There wasn’t a big, formal announcement or an understanding of what Open Streets would mean in Jackson Heights, but once people could see that at 8:00 every morning it was open to them, they decided on different ways on how to use it. 

Jim Burke (Co-Founder of 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition): And all of a sudden, this whole world opens up, and you’re like... 

Alvaro: We’re not allowed to have indoor group classes, so because of that we decided to take it outside on 34th Avenue.

Erick Modesto (Director of Ballet Folklorico Nueva Juventud): Being that 34th Avenue is open, hey, maybe I could hold some of my rehearsals there. It made it a good place where we could rehearse, get started up, start creating new ideas. 

Alvaro: Meeting on 34th Avenue, which has been a blessing, those streets!

Rita: It was kind of magical, especially in the mornings when people were exercising and walking. At 8:00 as soon as we started putting it out, it was like a dance. Suddenly you would see these people just appear from their buildings and start walking or jogging, but enjoying it. Really beautiful. 

Rita: I was one of the first volunteers for this Open Street. 

Jim: We said we got this, we will have volunteers for every single block.

Nuala: We had to find all the manpower to move the barricades. We’ve moved over 20,000 barricades, all with volunteer power, seven days a week now for months on end, and we’re going to do it when it rains and when it snows and when the sun shines, to show them that we as a community can do this. 

Nuala: I mean, the key to the Open Streets has always been that it’s community-run, community-led, and community-driven. Y’na’mean? 

Jim: I think that 34th gave, for the people who are involved in it, a really strong sense of community. 

Alvaro: I saw everyone on 34th. We’re always there!  

Rita: Rethinking how people can live and move in New York City. 

Erick: Who knows what the future holds for 34th Avenue? 

Rita: Let’s reimagine what New York could be like.