Monday, June 15, 2020

Karen Lives Matter


flatlandkc |  They started popping up in Kansas City neighborhoods in late April — homemade barriers, some quite creative, informing motorists a block is closed to traffic except for residents and deliveries. 

Call it a pandemic experiment. As schools, workplaces and even some public spaces like playgrounds closed, Kansas City rolled out a program called Neighborhood Open Streets. With minimal hassle, residents can apply for a city permit to close their blocks to through traffic.

Depending on who you’re talking to, Neighborhood Open Streets is either a) an inspired step toward a safer, happier community; or b) a colossal nuisance.

In general, people who live on the closed blocks tend to favor the safety and community argument. Motorists forced to detour around them seethe over the inconvenience.

“I’m all for it,” said Diana Halverson, whose block on 70th Street off of Ward Parkway got a permit. 
Halverson’s block has been seeing a lot of traffic in recent months because of construction projects on Gregory Boulevard, two blocks to the south. So when a neighbor proposed applying for a closure permit, she heartily agreed. 

“Got it in one day,” she said.

Unlike the process for a block party permit, which requires signatures from a majority of residents to close the street for a few hours, applicants for a Neighborhood Open Streets permit need only fill out a form and submit evidence — like a text or email — that they informed their neighbors of their intent.

“We had a strict social distancing order in place,” said Maggie Green, information officer for Kansas City’s Public Works Department. “The last thing we wanted to do was encourage people to knock on doors.”

So far, the department has issued permits for 37 blocks, Green said. The majority are in the 4th and 6th City Council districts, and the program is especially popular in the southwest corridor.