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Central Park to be car free starting this summer: Mayor

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that cars will be banned from Central Park beginning this June.
car free central park
Central Park will be permanently car free starting this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cars will be banned from Central Park beginning this June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday.

The park will become completely car-free 24/7, 365 days a year starting on June 27, the city said in a statement, which is the day after public school classes end and the first day that outdoor pools are open across the city. The change will mark the park's return to "its original use as an urban refuge and recreation space."

“Our parks are for people, not cars," de Blasio said in a statement. "For more than a century, cars have turned parts of the world’s most iconic park into a highway. Today we take it back. We are prioritizing the safety and the health of the millions of parents, children and visitors who flock to Central Park."

The ban will prohibit vehicles from the “loop drives” within the park below 72nd Street. Central Park Drives north of 72nd Street are already car free, and current rules, according to the Central Park Conservancy, allow the drives south of that street to be open to vehicular traffic only on weekdays and within certain time frames.

West Drive is currently open to cars from 8 to 10 a.m., Center Drive/East Drive from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Terrace Drive, or 72nd Street Cross, from 8 to 10 a.m.

There are also four transverse roads that run crosstown open to motorists which will remain open after this ban takes place. Those roads, at 97th, 86th, 79th and 65th Streets, were built into the park’s original design, the city said, "as fully-separated, below-grade streets to accommodate thru-traffic."

The Department of Transportation, the Central Park Conservancy, NYC Parks and NYPD will help coordinate the transition to a vehicle-free Central Park. 

Advocates have been urging for a car-free Central Park for decades. The nonprofit Transportation Alternatives launched its campaign to rid the park of motorists in 1979.

“It was almost 40 years ago when the movement to remove cars from Central Park began in earnest," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, in a statement.

“Progress comes in fits and starts — a weekend trial here, a seasonal trial there —- and often without any assurance that meaningful reform is coming,” he continued. “So we’re thrilled to finally witness a positive conclusion to the four decade-long campaign to rid Central Park of vehicular traffic, and we’re grateful to Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg for returning Central Park to what it was always meant to be: a place for people, not for cars.”

This move comes after Prospect Park officially became car free in January.