Boston thrilled with huge Open Streets turnout in Jamaica Plain

Boost neighborhood businesses, bring communities together – and create a safe space for residents and families to party – those are the main goals for Boston’s Open Streets initiative, which kicked off in Jamaica Plain Sunday.

“It feels like the entire city has come out,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

“I lost count by, like, 9:30 a.m.,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s chief of streets.

Certainly, a substantial portion of the neighborhood came out to Centre Street, normally one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city.

“To have one day where there’s no cars, take over the whole streets, scooter, run, bike, have fun – it’s a wonderful thing for all of us,” Wu said. “It’s a tremendous amount of coordination and we’re so grateful to all of our city teams that have been part of this for many months.”

Planning for the event began as Wu took office last year. Dominga Martin was a part of it.

“There were a lot of butterflies, more so than nervousness, because we’ve actually been planning for a whole year,” said Martin, director of programming for Open Streets. “We were just wondering if we marketed enough for the people to turn out.”

Whether it was marketing or the weather is hard to say. With blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s, it was a perfect summer day for a block party.

“I wished it happened more often, frankly,” said Jamaica Plain Resident Brendan Salisbury. “This has been great. I’ve been able to meet a bunch of my neighbors that I didn’t even know lived around me.”

That’s saying something, given Salisbury moved to JP six years ago.

“Honestly, if we could do this once a month, twice a month I’d be here for it. I’d show up every time,” Salisbury said. “Half of these businesses I’d be down here all the time, every day if I could. But I don’t have a car, it’s too far for me to walk and I don’t feel safe riding my bike down here.”

Salisbury’s T-shirt expressed his disdain for vehicular traffic – Cars Ruin Cities was inscribed on the back.

“There’s always a lot of debate when people want to put in bike lanes,” Salisbury said. “Well, what about the businesses if you sacrifice parking? I don’t think I see any complaints from any of the businesses today. I’d be willing to wager that a lot of the businesses are seeing more activity than they’ve seen in months. I think it’s a great demonstration of what’s possible if we make things safer for everyone.”

The next Open Streets event is next month in Roxbury.

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