Summer Streets 2011: Play Ball

Former Mets closer John Franco, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and Knicks star John Starks announce the program for Summer Streets 2011. Photo: Noah Kazis

This August, Park Avenue will again be closed to motor vehicles for three Saturday mornings as part of the fourth annual Summer Streets event.

The details are largely the same as in years past: The route will run for seven miles from 72nd Street south to Foley Square from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. When asked what the Department of Transportation had learned from last year’s event, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan simply replied, “We’ve learned that it’s wildly popular.” Last year, 60,000 New Yorkers enjoyed the car-free street each Saturday, she said.

While the main attraction hasn’t changed, a new slate of programming will be available for families to enjoy. Sports fans should appreciate the participation of the New York Knicks and Mets — record-holding Mets closer John Franco and 1990s Knicks star John Starks were on hand at the press conference announcing Summer Streets this afternoon. “Maybe you can learn a few tips about shooting a basketball from me,” Starks promised potential Summer Streets attendees. Each team will have a presence at the event but it’s not quite clear if active players will be there as well.

Also along the route will be sand sculptures, a 25-foot climbing wall, and free bicycle and rollerblade rentals.

The flagship Park Avenue Summer Streets event will be joined by 18 neighborhood “Weekend Walks,” across all five boroughs.

At this point, the only question that remains about Summer Streets is when those 60,000 people will be able to come back for a fourth or fifth car-free weekend day. The state of Massachusetts, for comparison’s sake, closes Memorial Drive, a riverfront highway in Cambridge, to cars all day every Sunday from April through November.