Central and Prospect Parks will soon have a lot fewer cars going through it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday morning that vehicle traffic will be banned from the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street starting June 29, and from Prospect Park’s West Drive starting on July 6.
“This makes the majority of both parks car-free,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio said up to 200 cars pass through Prospect Park during the evening rush hour, when more families are visiting the parks after schools and work.
Cars were first allowed in city parks in 1899, and the mayor said that city parks haven’t been this car free in 116 years.
“For my family, Prospect Park means so much,” de Blasio said. “First of all, my family directly relates to Prospect Park because Chirlane and I got married here in Prospect Park, which was a signification step forward for both Chiara and Dante. They both played here. They played little league here. They played on all of these playgrounds – I know them so well. And this park was our front yard, our back yard for so much of our life. And I think for so many New Yorkers, that’s the common experience.
When asked why the city didn’t ban all traffic within the two parks, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said Central Park “still has a very high car volume” — 400 to 500 cars an hour — and the city is concerned of the spillover traffic into the already-congested parts of midtown.
Trottenberg said the city successfully closed the Central Park drives north of the park the last two summers without issue.
“I’m very happy with Prospect Park … it’s a great big step,” said Brooklyn runner Michael Ring, who started a petition to ban all traffic in the park earlier this year. “But in Central Park they’re leaving cars among the most dangerous area, where the horses go, runners, bicyclists. Taxis have to go around horses in the bike lane.”
Multiple people Metro spoke with in Central Park on Thursday agreed with the ban, with some also commiserating with drivers, who will now need to drive below 72nd Street or up and around the park to get across.
“It will be good for people in the park but bad for everyone else in cars trying to get through; I was once a driver so I can understand,” said Brooklynite Kristina Gascoyne, 28.
Beresford Simmons, a member and organizer with New York Taxi Workers Alliance, called the move a “major inconvenience” for cab drivers, and said drivers should have been surveyed before the move.
“This is costing the passengers quite a lot of money, costing businessmen who need to get from one point to another a lot of time and is costing New York City a lot of money,” Simmons said.
Additional reporting by Megan Fu.