To Some it’s a Park, to Others, a Parking Lot

prospect1.jpg
A view of the area now occupied by the Wollman Rink circa 1930.

Last night the Prospect Park Alliance hosted a "community input session" for the proposed Lakeside Center, a facility that is to replace the 45-year-old Wollman rink and "provide Park visitors with a state-of-the-art, year-round facility featuring two new outdoor ice skating rinks, classrooms, and several amenities" including "a cafe, gift shop, information desk and exhibit space." The new center will be a "green" building designed to "restore the landscape and lake vistas of the original Olmsted and Vaux design" for the park.

As so often seems to be the case in outer borough community meetings, a good
portion of last night’s discussion centered around the question of automobile storage.
While there were none of the histrionics of the 9th Street traffic calming meetings, some of the most intense concerns were expressed by people who use the 300-space Wollman Rink parking lot for visits to the park and for Q train park-and-rides. They want to make sure that a sufficiently large (and free) parking lot is designed into the new plan.

prospect2.jpg
Plan of the Wollman Rink area circa 1874. The rink occupies the area where "Music Island" used to be.

The project is in its very early design stages. In addition to providing the park with a state-of-the-art facility, the idea is to reclaim the part of the lake that was filled in to construct the Wollman Rink and to utilize the area currently occupied by the parking lot, formerly the Carriage Concourse.

Before the meeting started, participants were invited to check out the historical research that had been done showing the evolution of this particular area of the park. Prospect Park Alliance president Tupper Thomas kicked off the meeting by conveying that the purpose of the Lakeside Center was to replace the Wollman Rink, the parks’s "most unattractive feature," and create the "great center the park never had."

The laundry list of potential uses for the new facility is long and as the programming process continues, Thomas is asking for more input from the community. For those interested there will be another meeting on Wednesday, May 30th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

Thomas said that, in the new plan, as currently conceived, car parking would be moved to the area known as Breeze Hill. She said the Prospect Park Alliance is working with transportation consultant Sam Schwartz to develop the plan and minimize conflicts between automobiles and park users. The number of parking spots would be reduced to approximately 150.

prospect3.jpg
Dashed lines indicate current location of Wollman Rink and locker house (upper center) and parking lot (left).

A community member asked Thomas about building an underground parking lot under the new facility. She said that that would be very expensive and "out of the picture" unless a donor was willing to fund it in return for having their name put on, well, an underground parking garage.

She also said that the MTA likes having parking in that area so that people can use it as a commuter lot with its close proximity to the Q stop at Parkside Avenue.

A resident living in the area of the Parkside Avenue and Ocean Avenue intersection noted that the entrance there to the park is not pedestrian friendly. It seems that attempting to fix some of the conflicts there would be included in the plans for the new facility.

Thomas, who has supported efforts to expand car-free hours in Prospect Park, was also asked if the parking lot could be eliminated completely in anticipation of a completely car-free park. Her response was that "Brooklyn is still not a car-free place."

She was also asked if there would be a fee for parking in the new parking lot, given that people taking the subway pay $2 to get to the park and that people using the new facility would be charged admission for some of the amenities. Her response was that they had previously proposed the idea of weekend parking charges, but this idea was "beaten down in the press." However, she does see the validity of the argument for charging a fee for parking in Prospect Park.

  • “they had previously proposed the idea of weekend parking charges, but this idea was ‘beaten down in the press.'”

    It might be time for Streetsblog to push back by emphasizing throughout this process that:

    1) It is unfair to make people who do not drive subsidize the parking costs of those who do drive.

    2) It is anti-environment to provide free parking.

    3) Providing free parking causes a shortage of parking spaces, as Donald Shoup points out.

    In fact, there is no free parking. It is just a question of who pays – and it should be the driver who pays.

  • d

    I’ve never understood why otherwise able-bodied people–mostly coming to ice skate, after all–need to drive into the park. Automobile access to the park should be limited to the handicapped, elderly, and others who have difficulty walking. (I’m not aware of ANY parking lots inside Central Park, despite the fact that it’s at least three times as big as Prospect Park.)

    Perhaps a parking fee could be waived for people with disabilities, and a fee of $2 or $5 could be imposed on everyone else. Automobiles arguably cause more damage to the park loop’s pavement than my tiny bike or running shoes could ever do, so as long as cars are allowed to enter Prospect Park, why shouldn’t drivers contribute more to its maintenance? A fee could also go to provide a dedicated traffic officer at the intersection of the park loop and the entrance/exit to the parking lot.

  • SPer

    Jaysus, I cannot BELIEVE that we are talking about free parking inside Prospect Park! Who is using the current spaces? Where are they driving from? Is it really used as a commuter lot? For people commuting from where?

    Ah, Prospect Park…a great place to visit, a wonderful place to store your car.

  • It would be very wonderful to have a grade-separated entrance to the parking lot (if we have to have a parking lot.)

    Cars going in and out of that parking lot cause a lot of conflicts during car-free hours.

  • d- I don’t think there are any parking lots for regular folks in Central Park, but there are plenty of public employee commuter automobiles parked all over the place in the park with various placards. In any given weekday, I bet there are over 200 automobiles parked inside Central Park. Maybe 400.

  • AD

    For some visuals and details of the cars parked in Central Park, see this item from last year.

  • d

    Maybe as part of the redesign, someone should sponsor a survey to find out where these drivers are coming from.

  • Anon

    They want to put the parking in Breeze Hill? That is one of the most beautiful, serene, and isolated parts of the park right now. You can bike through there and have it all to yourself. Making it a parking lot would be so sad. It is much more in the middle of the park than the current lot is, so it would more intruding on the park’s natural setting, as well as requiring more driving (and emissions) to get to.

  • This is a great opportunity to get more cars out of the park.

    I wasn’t aware, and really am surprised to learn, that there is free parking in the park at all.

    The lot should be eliminated. Going from 300 to 150 spaces is a step in the right direction, but not sufficient.

    Keep the pressure on and let’s get the right solution.

  • mfs

    do people actually use that lot as a park and ride for the Q? if so, that’s probably a good thing.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    That depends on what they would do if the lot weren’t there. If they’d drive straight to Manhattan, then the lot has some redeeming value. If they’d take an express bus, the LIRR or another subway, then the lot is not a good thing.

  • People also park there to use the (not free)shuttle bus to Methodist Hospital.

  • Dave

    “Carriage Concourse”
    So its been a parking lot for, what 134 years or so?
    Maybe that’s what we ought to change the name of all parking lots to.
    So quaint and smelling of horse sh!t.

  • name

    Let me guess: those that oppose parking live next to Prospect Park.

    Something you nimbys might not realize is that not everyone lives in the area. Working class families, ones that would like to use the facilities, live in other neighorhoods, neighborhoods they can afford. Some of these neighborhoods do not convienient public transportation to the skating rink. Once again, slope yuppies trying to force the lower/middle-class out of the park. Please, the park is for everyone, share!

    Parking with a fee is the best compromise.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Again with the mythical working-class drivers! They seem to be invisible on the street, but all over the blogosphere.

    Well, Name, maybe these families can drive to Forest Park, Alley Pond Park and Cunningham Parks, all lovely parks that are not convenient to any subway lines. Floyd Bennett Field is interesting too.

    If I can’t get to those places easily without a car, why should the driving families get to hog the roads, endanger park users and pollute the air in Prospect Park?

  • greg

    its ridiculous in this day an age that we even have an argument over cars in the park…get them out!!!!

    no parking lot
    no cars in the park
    period

  • da chef

    CARS OUT OF THE PARK PERIOD!!

    Any discussion regarding parking in the park is moot.
    There are at least several Bus lines and several Trains to the park.

    da chef

  • name

    For all those that are posting anti-car comments, please list your neighborhood. I am curious to see where all the hate is coming from.

  • name

    “these families can drive to Forest Park, Alley Pond Park and Cunningham Parks”

    Please pay attention, the story is about the Lakeside Center skating rink. Those parks do not have skating rinks.

  • I’m in Carroll Gardens, Name. Where are you living, with your straw-man community of put-upon car owners?

    Considering the subway and bus access to the park from an enormous range of neighborhoods, your argument of “NIMBYism” is ridiculous.

    My family has a car, for work and visiting scattered family; I wouldn’t dream of driving it to the park.

    Angus made a well reasoned argument, and you still have not adequately refuted it. BTW Angus, excellent point at #11.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Thanks, Gary!

    For all those that are posting anti-car comments, please list your neighborhood. I am curious to see where all the hate is coming from.

    Why, so you can stereotype us as Park Slope yuppies?

    Please pay attention, the story is about the Lakeside Center skating rink. Those parks do not have skating rinks.

    I was paying attention. People park in that parking lot year-round, for visits to the park and to catch the Q train. But even for ice skating, why should others put their lives on the line so that these mythical car owners can go skating? Why can’t they take an express bus to Rockefeller Center or Central Park? Or if they really want a suburban lifestyle, drive to Long Island?

  • d

    The term NIMBY is misleading. NIMBY might be used to describe people who are against something that HAS to go somewhere, as long as it’s not in their own backyards. (Like sewage treatment plants, power stations, a bus depot, etc.) I’d be with you on the NIMBY label if people here were were saying, “I don’t want you to drive in my park, but I don’t care if you drive in someone else’s.”

    But that’s not what people are saying, and the only way frequenters of Streetsblog could be labeled NIMBYs is if you count all of New York’s parks as our backyards. This is not a choice between people driving in Prospect Park, which I use frequently, or in a different park, which I do not use at all. It’s a choice between them driving in the park to get to the skating rink and commuter lot, or finding another way to do those things altogether.

    We need to look at the factors causing people to drive in the park. If people have no other means of getting to the rink or in securing a place to “park and ride” to get to work, we should take that into consideration when coming up with a solution. That could come in the form of nominal parking fees, changing the traffic layout of the park to shorten the distance drivers must cover to access the lot, or finding municipal lots near the park and dedicating spots for people coming to ice skate.

    Still, I would be willing to bet that the reason people drive in any park has more to do with the simple fact that it’s allowed and less to do with people’s inability to find other means of access to the park’s facilities.

    By the way, I live in Park Slope, and will gladly speak out against allowing cars in any park in the five boroughs, regardless of whether or not it’s in my backyard. If I can’t afford a car, barely make my rent each month, and pay for my own health insurance, am I still a Park Slope yuppie?

  • greg

    we need to show up to the next community meeting and voice our concerns…cannot allow the planners to think that “everyone” wants cars and parking spots

  • South Slope

    More grist for the mill:

    There are two ice-skating rinks in Brooklyn: Abe Stark at West 19th Street in Coney Island and the Lakeside Rink in Prospect Park. Abe Stark charges $8.00 admission; Prospect Park $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children. (Skate rental is an added $4.50 at Stark, $5.50 at Prospect Park.)

    We live in the South Slope roughly 4 miles from the Prospect Park rink. There’s no subway we could take to the Prospect Park rink, but a couple of buses (B68 + B61) would get us pretty close. Say I take 4 kids skating (2 of mine + 2 of their friends) by bus. That adds $20 for transport (and at least an hour to the round-trip time) to the $17 the Parks Department will charge us to skate. Alternatively, we could take the F to Coney, pay the higher rate at Abe Stark ($40.00 for the five of us) plus the $20 for round trip transport (time en route is roughly the same, assuming the availability of weekend service).

    I confess I’ve routinely opted to drive the kids to the Prospect Park rink saving time and money. Would we use the rink if we couldn’t drive there? Certainly not as often as we do.

    Maybe ice-skating has also become part of a suburban lifestyle.

    We’re lucky that Prospect Park is so near our neighborhood. But Prospect Park isn’t just a neighborhood park. This holiday weekend, I expect I’ll see (as I have in the past) lots of families pulling their cars up along Prospect Park West to offload kids, coolers, folding chairs, and other gear to picnic/cook-out (even where it’s not “permitted”) in the Park. Are they working class? Don’t know for sure. But they’re not mythical.

  • greg

    feel free to drive to the park if it makes sense
    just park outside

  • d

    South Slope, your comment brings up a perfect solution to the problem: unloading kids, coolers, and cook-out gear on Prospect Park West, or any other side of the Park.

    No one is doubting that people come from great distances to use the park, but we are questioning the need to drive right into the park. Your solution is perfect. Stop the car near the park, and walk the remaining block or two to one’s destination inside the park. That’s reasonable, as people expect to see cars on the streets around the park, but few people expect to see cars in the park.

  • park user

    A big problem is that driving to the parking lot leads to people driving on the parts or the loop where they aren’t allowed. I see people driving around those flimsy barriers all the time. Then they speed off up the hill to Grand Army Plaza or around again.

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