New York’s Summer Streets program could be a model for a July 4th celebration in DC.
The National Mall is a great place to watch DC’s July 4th fireworks celebration. But it’s also such a tremendous hassle that many Washingtonians prefer to watch from more local neighborhood vantage points. A street festival on 13th, NW would instantly become the prime non-Mall celebration.
Every year thousands of Washingtonians watch the fireworks from somewhere along the Meridian Hill escarpment. Cardozo High School’s football stadium is a popular choice, as is Meridian Hill Park. But the best vantage points are from the roadways of north-south streets, where they slope up the escarpment between Florida Avenue and Euclid Street. Unfortunately for fireworks watchers, an active street is not a safe place to put down a blanket.
But surely every single north-south street is not needed for transportation purposes on the 4th. 16th Street is probably too important as a traffic artery, but what about 13th? If the city were to close it to cars for a day, it would provide a fantastic viewing spot, right in the heart of the residential city. 14th Street could also work, but the views from 13th are significantly better.
Closing 13th Street would also provide another benefit: it could easily accommodate a street festival.
Instead of spending the 4th camping out for a good spot on the National Mall, imagine spending it strolling up and down a car-free 13th Street, lined with food, shopping, and art vendors south of Florida Avenue. Then just before dark, imagine hiking north of Florida Avenue to watch the fireworks from the sloping hill.
For years many DC residents have lamented that we have nothing like New York’s Summer Streets program, which closes Park Avenue to cars on 3 Saturdays each summer, resulting in a 7-miles-long walking and biking street fair. New York’s program has been hugely popular, and a DC version surely would be as well.
Why not kill two birds with one stone? Close 13th Street between Logan Circle and Euclid Street, providing DC residents with both a mile-long summer cyclovia, and an awesome new place for thousands to watch the fireworks, hassle-and-impediment-free.
Update: According to Pedro Ribeiro, Director of Communications for the DC Mayor’s Office, the city did in fact close 13th Street this year, between Euclid Street and Florida Avenue, beginning at 8:00 pm. That’s a great first step! Now let’s extend the closure down to Logan Circle, and make it all day.