To host a Block Party on public property, you need to apply for what the City calls a Play Street Closing Permit. This permit allows you to close a residential street to through-traffic so that you and your neighbors can use and enjoy the street during your block party. Here are some things you can do on the street and sidewalks with a Play Street Closing Permit:
Meet and connect with your neighbors
Play games like foursquare and double-dutch
Have activities like sidewalk chalk and blowing bubbles
Arrange chairs, tables, tents (10x10 ft or smaller), or other easily movable items
Have a potluck and serve free food
You should apply for a Play Street Closing Permit at least 30 days before your Block Party. Unfortunately, the Play Street Closing Permit does not allow for the following activities on the street or sidewalks:
Amplified music, stages, or risers
Carnival rides, petting zoos, and pony rides
Food trucks or food being prepared on the street or sidewalk
If this is your first event with the City, you will need to set up an online account. Your username and password can be used for future block parties and other City business, so remember to keep it in a safe place. You’ll be able to copy a Block Party application for future years if you want to have a recurring event. When you apply online, you need to give us some general information about your event.
After we receive your permit application, it is reviewed by the Boston Transportation Department and the Boston Police Department. Reviewers look at event logistics, transportation impacts, and public safety considerations. You may get a call from a City staff member if we have questions and suggestions about timing, which parts of your street you’d like to close to traffic, and how to move forward with your event.
If you are interested in any of the following activities on the street or sidewalks, you will need to apply for additional permits:
Hosting the activities listed above on your personal property does not require additional permits and is the quickest and easiest way to include one or more of the activities in your block party.
If you decide to apply for additional permits, you may need to meet with the Special Events Committee, or proceed through applicable permit processes individually. Submit a Special Event application here. Processing these permit applications can take up to 30 business days. Sometimes things change or emergency construction work arises, so the City does reserve the right to revoke your permit if that happens. If that does happen, you will get a call from the City and you can resubmit your permit for a different day.
It takes about 30 business days to approve a Play Street Closing/Block Party permit. If you have questions about the process or if your permit is taking longer than expected, reach out to your Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services liaison. They can help you to get your permit and answer any pending questions about your permit application.
Once you have received your Play Street Closing permit, you are ready to refine your plan and communicate with your neighbors. Here are some things to keep in mind:
The Play Street Closing Permit does not remove parked cars, so communicate with your neighbors and guests in advance.
We highly encourage you to create an event flyer and share it with your neighbors in advance of the event so they can plan accordingly. Flyers should have the event date, time, activities, and information for how to volunteer and attend.
The Boston Fire Department and the Boston Emergency Medical Services require that a twenty foot (20') aisle be kept unobstructed, running the entire block, at all times to allow emergency vehicles to enter and exit.
You can block off the street with caution tape, traffic cones, and other easily removable devices. Vehicles cannot be used to close off the streets (see reason above: fire trucks need to pass). This is a Block Party, not a drive-in!
In case neighbors or other folks have questions about your party and the process, have a printed copy of your Play Street Closing Permit on hand.