Count Cars Breaking the Law in Prospect Park!

Almost every time Doug Gordon
visits Prospect Park he sees vehicles entering illegally after it is
closed to cars at 7 pm. It made him mad, so he got out his video camera.

StreetFilms obtained the footage he took on June 20th near the 3rd Street/Prospect Park West entrance and truncated it into this enlightening bit. Count along as dozens of drivers break the law!

We think Doug is awesome and we whole-heartedly encourage more concerned citizens to act constructively to highlight what is going on in their community.

  • Great video. It seems like people don’t know the rules about driving through the park. This doesn’t excuse the people who drove through the after they dragged the gates across!

  • Steve

    Well done, Doug. The motorists who slipped through after the fencing was in place with the signs on it advising them of the closure are truly bad actors.

  • Clarence

    Gloves are off on the comments section at StreetFIlms!

    http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/count-cars-breaking-the-law-in-prospect-park/

  • Fascinated

    Ah, man. Sorry for all the trolls you encountered, but . . . this is a hard video to defend. The gates were open; that means the park is open. How else could you read it?
    Should cars be banned from the park? Surely. So let’s do it. This tut-tutting doesn’t help.

  • td

    Fascinated, if you watch the longer video the guy says that you can’t blame people who might be ignorant of the law or of the park closing hours. It’s about enforcement, which has to be part of official park policy.

  • Tautology

    Hmmmm….from what I recall there are signs up at the entrances posting the hours. Most of the drivers know that 7 PM is the magic moment because they are regulars and hurry to make it there before 7. SO they do know – okay, so maybe 98% know. And yet let’s give them permission because the gates aren’t closed yet. Don’t buy it.

    However, no signs anywhere all over the Coney Island boardwalk (that I have ever seen) and my friend gets a ticket for riding her bike on it. The only place I know it says you can’t ride your bike there (after 11 AM) is on the NYC bike maps.

    Sounds like more city double standards.

  • da

    The solution is simple: the 3rd St. entrance to Prospect Park should be permanently closed to traffic. It’s already closed weekday mornings, now that West Drive is closed. In the afternoon, southbound drivers can just enter the park at Grand Army Plaza instead of driving halfway down PPW and entering at 3rd St.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Yeesh. Curbed has a lot of interesting stuff, but some of their commenters are the most ignorant assholes I’ve ever seen online – and I used to read USENET news.

  • Clarence

    Angus:

    We have had over 70 comments on sfilms. Although some of it quite ignorant and heated, none of it matches some of the incredibly insenstive stuff on both Curbed and Gothamist. I did have to delete one post that went too far.

  • mike

    I am truly amazed at the level of vitriol on Curbed and Gothamist sometimes. I don’t know why those sites attract such bitter people.

    That’s why I like Streetsblog – the comments are usually well thought out and reasonable, even if I occasionally disagree with them.

  • td

    Also, Fascinated, there are some vehicles that cut through the park like vans and a bus that probably do the route every day and are perfectly aware of the park’s car hours. Not to mention the two cars shown going around the barriers after they are set up…

    I was really shocked by the racism and anti-Semitism on Gothamist and Curbed. It’s as if no one is in control over there.

  • mark

    Please. So they were 15 mins late to shut down the entrance. It’s really detestable to drive through at 7:01 or 7:06, isn’t it? Gimme a break. Get a video of them going through at 8:00 and 9:00, but who cares if they’re 15 mins late to closing it? This is a pretty useless video, if you ask me.

  • reader

    mark, there are people shown going around the gates even after they were closed.

    here’s what the guy who shot it wrote on streetfilms:

    Regarding the “Hey, it’s only fifteen minutes,” argument, I turned off my camera after the Parks Dept. van arrived. What is not seen are the four or five cars that still entered at 3rd Street, after the official set-up. Even at three in the afternoon one can see cars going around the barriers to cut through the park. Anyone who’s focusing on the fifteen minutes is missing the larger point.

  • q

    actually, who would care if cars came in the park at 9 PM, mark? it’s dark and not a prime time when people want to go running, biking, or walking. the problem is that with the days already getting shorter, 15 minutes is a lot of time when you’re trying to squeeze in some exercise or fun between work and sunset. in september and october, you can basically forget about using the park in the evenings. it’s dark almost as soon as the cars stop flowing through.

  • parker

    15 mins. means a lot to me. That’s about one lap around the park on my bike or almost half of my regular jog. On the flip side, how much time are these drivers saving? A few minutes?

  • it’s not about being 15 minutes late, which most of us would overlook in any other situation.

    it’s about the fact that those 15 minutes represented something like 44 cars, each one a potential accident/injury to someone in the park whose guard was down because the commute time was over.

  • momos

    This video highlights a street design problem. What’s needed are a series of bollards buried in the pavement, which at 7 pm automatically rise to completely block the road to cars.

    Check out this short youtube clip showing how they guard the bus lane in Manchester, UK:

  • Fascinated

    Listen, I’m a daily bike commuter. I live near the park, I ride with my three children there, and I detest the cars that are on the ring road. But I also think that this video doesn’t show the problem in the most flattering light. It makes us look thin-skinned and pedantic.
    Consider a (not perfectly parallel) situation: It’s the week before Christmas, and you arrive at the Post Office with your packages. It’s 3:15. The Post Office should be closed, but praise God! The workers haven’t pulled the gates down yet! Do you go in? I know I do.

  • parker

    You’re right, it’s an imperfect analogy.

    Firstly, no one ever got hit by a car while mailing a package 15 minutes after closing. Secondly, it’s up to the discretion of one postal worker to make an exception for one customer at a time. In this case, a handful of cars are making their own decisions at the expense of hundred or thousands of people who want to use the park in the less than two hours before the sun goes down. If they could realistically get to every entrance in time, no parks employee would allow cars beyond the 7 PM cut-off. Thirdly, your analogy describes an emergency situation (A Christmas deadline) and the good graces of an employee. But what’s so urgent about a bunch of people looking to save 5 or 10 minutes off of their daily commute? If these drivers could give compelling arguments for why they NEED to drive around barriers (forget about when they are open) then maybe people would be more forgiving. (And perhaps the tone seems pedantic because it seems impossible to understand why one should have to explain why cars in parks are not a great idea.)

    Regardless, I don’t see what’s thin-skinned about wanting as much time as one is entitled to in a car-free park, according to the rules. The hours are what they are and maybe a greater effort could be made to enforce them. Right now, if I want to go for a run without cars racing by me, I have three choices: get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and run so I have time to get ready for work by 9 AM, take the day off of work and run mid-day, or go after 7 PM, but then only in the summer because there’s absolutely no daylight left at that hour in the fall. So working stiffs like me get maybe two hours each weekday for three months to use the park. Why should cars get prime park time at the expense of the majority of people who work during the day?

    So that something constructive might come out of this (and not just a back and forth where we dissect each other’s arguments), how would you propose those who are arguing for car-free parks go about it?

  • Fascinated

    Parker: Thanks for the careful read.
    I’m trying only to say that to those not intimately involved in this debate — that is, most everyone — will think we’re loony. (Or thin-skinned.) People cutting through the park in their cars do not think of themselves as the drivers of deathmobiles. I’m quite sure that a driver who beats the gate at 3rd Street doesn’t think for a moment that she’s done anything wrong. I think that we would not be having this discussion if the movie showed cars circumventing the barriers.

    I think most reasonable people would want to ban cars from the park, if the question were put to them in a reasonable manner.
    Start a petition. Set up a booth at the 3rd Street entrance.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I agree with some of the criticisms of the video. As someone who used to live near Prospect Park and is aware of the context, I thought it was very apt and funny – it reminded me of “Elmo has a question for YOU!”

    But I can see how someone coming from another context wouldn’t realize that the drivers weren’t the real targets (at least the ones who weren’t going through the barriers), and that the goal isn’t to shame them, but to get quicker closing of the car entrances (in the short term) and cars out of the park (in the long term).

    Of course part of the problem is that cars really are “deathmobiles,” but drivers have become so desensitized to that fact, and all they can think of is whether they can get away with a shortcut or not.

    That’s the big disconnect, and until we can bridge that disconnect, motorists are going continue to be baffled by our concerns. But I’m not sure it’s possible to bridge it, because I think that it’s almost impossible to drive regularly without that desensitization and denial.

  • Doug

    Hi.

    I’ll weigh in only to say that in the longer video, I very clearly say that the people who are using the park after it’s supposed to be closed are most likely merely ignorant of the hours and not maliciously flouting posted rules. This was cut in the interest of time, but it’s there for the record.

    In fact, in the longer video, you can see what happens when the barriers are set up: most drivers slow down, see that the park is closed, and continue down Prospect Park West. (You are right that the drivers going around the barriers are another story altogether.)

    Regarding petitions, one already exists: Transportation Alternatives has been at it for years, gathering signatures online and in the park. More information for both Central and Prospect Parks is at:

    http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/index.html

    By the way, I don’t think it’s necessary to label cars “deathmobiles,” and I’d hate to turn this into a mandate on automobiles in general. Obviously if a car comes in close contact with a person the car will win, but I am not anti-car at all and actually love to drive when I get the chance. I’m not against people driving on Fifth Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, the BQE, the West Side Highway, or on any of the other thousands of miles of roadways available to them 24-hours a day across this city. I’m just against them driving on a 3.3 mile loop of pavement through a city park.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Doug, have you ever seen someone killed by a car? The only reason “deathmobile” seems like hyperbole is the disconnect that I was talking about above. I’m not blaming or judging motorists – they do what they have to. But cars really do bring death wherever they go.

  • Doug

    I’m not disagreeing with how dangerous cars can be, but I feel that using words like “deathmobile” or turning the car-free park campaign into a larger campaign against cars in general does a disservice to the issue at hand.

    If we can keep focused on the basic facts–that drivers aren’t saving much time by using the park, that traffic outside the park doesn’t increase significantly when the park is closed, that people don’t have a lot of park space to use car-free during popular times of day–then we win. I think most people are well-aware of how dangerous mixing cars, people, and a thin line of paint on the ground separating the two can be. While I hope it doesn’t take someone getting killed by a car in the park, I would hate to think that focusing on the extremes is the only way to make a change.

  • Zam

    Hello. Someone’s already been killed by traffic in Prospect Park. Summer of ’97. Her name was Rachel Fruchter. Swerved out of the bike lane to avoid a jogger and got hit and dragged by a van. Deathmobile? Extreme? Yes. The basic facts.

    Also the basic facts: Traffic is unbelievably horrendous in Flatbush on the southeastern side of the park, particularly during the AM rush. Many people who live down there (who also happen to be not as white or as wealthy as the Park Slope-oriented constituency that wants a car-free park) believe that making the park car-free would load up their streets with even more crushing traffic.

    Car-Free Park advocates need to get themselves out to Flatbush and start talking with those communities about how to relieve their traffic burden beyond continuing to allow people to drive in the park (which isn’t actually helping them very much anyhow). That’s the clear next step in the campaign. But no one’s doing it.

    Til then, how about, at the very least, closing the Third Street entrance to cars. There’s no need for that to be open to traffic at all.

  • Fascinated

    You’re right about Flatbush. What to do about it? Um…express bus lanes? Congestion pricing? Open season on anyone driving a Lincoln Town Car 20 mph over the speed limit and swerving through traffic to roar to a sidewalk in the chance that every single pedestrian is a possible fare? Let’s start with that one.

  • s

    Actually tons of studies have shown that closing the park to traffic has no effect on traffic in and around the surrounding neighborhoods on all sides of the park.

    And last I checked, plenty of people from different income levels use the park. Considering how few low-income people can afford summer homes or big vacations, doesn’t the city owe it to the people who use the park as their “summer home” to keep it car-free? There are so few places in Brooklyn where a kid can run around without cars spewing exhaust. If reducing asthma is a big reason to support congestion pricing, it should also be a reason to support car-free parks.

    Fascinated seems to be making this point, but it’s worth repeating. We’re talking about a park! Why do cars have to go through it at all? We need more creative solutions and shouldn’t fall back on an easy out of opening the park to traffic!

    I wonder if any parks people or DOT officials have been following this and what their opinions are on this issue.

  • Doug

    Hi.

    Apparently 3rd Street opens to traffic right on time, and the cars are lined up, ready to get in. At least that’s what happened at about 5:00 PM today.

  • SPer

    So what IS going on with the campaign for car-free parks???

    It seems to me that Prospect Park is the place to start, precisely because closing the park drives will have a MINIMAL effect on car commuting times. As I understand it, the study of closing the drives in the off-peak direction increased commuting times by 3 (count them, 1-2-3) minutes. But what about a study of the effect on commuting times of full closure? I am willing to wager that this will find an increase of no more than 5 minutes, if that, especially for the evening commute. Again — just look at Prospect Park SW between 5 and 7. Traffic moves briskly.

    My fantasy is to make a film that captures the difference it makes to the park experience to have cars driving through. When you go into Prospect Park after 7 pm on a summer evening, you very quickly leave noise behind and are enveloped in cool greenness, bird chirping, and all the rest.

    When you enter the park during the evening rush, you have to walk much farther into the park to get the same experience. In effect, letting cars through the park SHRINKS the park dramatically, not just by spoiling the experience of running or biking on the drives, but by spoiling the sense of peace and quiet that would otherwise be available just a fews steps within the park boundary.

    (Ditto for the morning rush I’m sure, but that’s not when I happen to be in the park.)

  • tu

    Is the park closed to traffic this week? I’m sure it’s closed on the 4th, but given that a lot of people are taking this week off of work wouldn’t it be a perfect time to try shutting the park to traffic? More people probably want to use the park for picnics and recreation than will need to drive through it on their way to work. Could this happen?

  • gus

    I was almost hit by a car today…at 3:30 in the afternoon. WHY are cars allowed in the park at all. GET THEM OUT! Why does no one enforce this? The police could make a mint by handing out tickets to anyone who comes in the park when the aren’t supposed to!

  • tim

    what’s happening with car-free parks and a trial period this summer???

  • ru

    This is worth adding to the debate:

    “For Athletes, An Invisible Traffic Hazard”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/fashion/12Fitness.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Cars, trucks, and diesel buses — the main culprits in the creation of particle pollution — spew untold millions of the microscopic pollutants into the air daily. Exercisers should take precautions against particles, experts said, by not exerting themselves near traffic, or, if they must use a path next to a highway, staying a few hundred yards away from vehicles.

    Particles can sail past nasal hairs, the body’s first line of defense, and settle deep in athletes’ lungs. Some remain there, causing irritation and inflammation. Others, so tiny they can bypass various bodily defenses, migrate into the bloodstream.

  • fedex1

    I agree with the person that said some automatic barrier would be a good idea. It could work just the way a train crossing works. at 2 minutes to 7pm red lights could flash and a siren could sound. Let the barrier gates could come down slowly.

    The least they could do is install traffic lights and program them to stay red for the park closed hours.

  • Steve

    Interesting idea, fedex 1, but if the lights were red on off-hours they could ticket bicyclists and pedestrians for going through them.

  • Nyc

    I keep on seeing bicyclists breaking the law all the time. Why is nobody counting them? Are they above the law?

  • Ian Turner

    Nyc, bicyclists don’t kill people when they break the law. It’s the difference between pointing a Glock at someone and spraying them with a water pistol.

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