Car-Free Hours Extended in Prospect Park

Prospect_Reduce_5_7.jpg

Thanks to Streetsblog tipsters who’ve written in about the evening rush closure of Prospect Park’s East Drive. This sign went up Friday at the corner of Parkside and Ocean Avenues.

This just in from DOT:

City transportation and parks commissioners today announced the extension of weekday recreational hours in Prospect Park as part of a citywide effort to encourage outdoor activity and cleaner air. Beginning on Monday August 27, 2007, motor vehicles will only be allowed to use the park’s East Drive from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and its West Drive from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The announced change discontinues evening vehicle access to the East Drive (currently permitted from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.).

“These traffic changes will create new opportunities for children and families to enjoy the Prospect Park drive on weekday afternoons. In his sustainability plan, Mayor Bloomberg urged us to ‘re-imagine the public realm.’ What better place to start than our greatest and most-visited parks?” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Our goal is to let the park be a park as much of the time as possible.”

“The increase of recreation-only hours on the drive in Prospect Park mirrors a similar increase enabled in Central Park a few weeks ago. Now there will be even more hours devoted to car-free bicycling, running, blading, and simply sauntering. Both parks will be cleaner and greener, and their users happier and healthier” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership in making New York a more livable and sustainable city, and Commissioner Sadik-Khan and the Department of Transportation for continuing their work to balance the needs of all New Yorkers.”

Currently, vehicular traffic is allowed on the West Drive of Prospect Park between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and on the East Drive from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 7 p.m. The park will continue to be closed to motor vehicles mid-day, overnight and during weekends.

Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 calls for making the City’s parks more accessible by expanding usable hours and increasing available athletic options. These reductions will further improve the parks’ overall traffic flow, minimize potential pedestrian/vehicle conflicts, and make available additional space for non-vehicular uses.

Guess the fix wasn’t in after all.

Photo: Michael Hansen

  • Dan

    I think you forgot to flip to page 2 of the press release where a DOT official adds, “Oh, by the way, stick it,
    Marty.”

  • Steve

    Another incremental rollback but cause for celebration nonetheless–congrats, Brooklyn!

  • nobody

    I’d be interested to hear what went on behind the scenes in order for Marty to accept this, or if he was simply overruled.

  • nobody

    … Either way, this is great news for Brooklyn!

  • d

    This is great news in the fight for car-free parks. Benepe and Sadik-Kahn should be thanked for this development.

    What we will be looking for is enforcement. As it stands now, too many cars drive around barriers to continue around the park, even when the park is supposed to be closed to traffic. Since half of the park will essentially be open to traffic at certain times, it will be very easy for cars to ignore posted signs and flimsy traffic barriers that barely cover a lane.

    But it’s a great step, nonetheless.

  • d

    Oh, and the funny thing is that Marty Markowitz got a load of bad p.r. just one week ago. Whether or not he initially blocked the extension of car-free hours, you can be sure his office is not happy that he appeared to be on the wrong end of this decision.

  • A definite cause for celebration for Brookyln. I hope our encouragement here on Streetsblog helped make this happen. Marty’s not going anywhere in his Mayoral bid. At best he’ll siphon votes from Weiner…

  • SPer

    Hooray! Another nail in the coffin of cars in the park. I think the more that people get the chance to experience a car-free park, the more park they will want & demand. Is anyone planning a new campaign for a car-free summer next year?

  • gecko

    way to go!

  • greg

    this is great

    next is to limit and charge for the parking at the new wollman rink

    and to continue squeezing car hours in the park

  • momos

    Right on, Sadik-Kahn!

  • da

    Next let’s close the 3rd St. *exit*.

    West Drive is entirely closed in the mornings. So, no traffic can exit there except for evenings anyway.

    And now that East Drive is closed in the evenings, the only traffic exiting 3rd St. would have had to originate at Grand Army Plaza, only a few blocks away. Makes no sense to keep the 3rd St. exit open any longer.

  • Dave

    Now to get rid of the packs of bike racers in the park, those who have been overwhelming the stroller/jogger/recreational bike/commuter bike crowd.
    Too dangerous.

  • Dan

    I’m a big biking advocate but the conflict bet bike racers and other park users does seem to be growing.

    Perhaps there needs to be “spandex hours” in the parks too — early morning time when bike racers can do their thing.

  • da

    Prospect Park needs a state-of-the-art running trail.

    One idea circulating is to reduce the auto lanes from two to one, and expanding the bike/ped space from 1/2 lane each to two full lanes. When this happens, perhaps we might take the leftmost half-lane, break up the asphalt, and install some sort of clay(?) running path. The thousands of joggers in Prospect Park deserve better than the rocky, root-strewn, ad-hoc path we have today. Considering how many runners use the park, one could make the case that the park is creating a public health hazard by not providing a decent jogging path.

  • greg

    the overly agressive spandex bikers really piss me off

    maybe i should film them and post to streetfilms?

  • greg

    perhaps prospect park can use a velodrome like the one in kissena park

  • SPer

    da — great idea.

  • psycholist

    very cool!

  • t

    Here’s a statement from the Prospect Park Alliance, via City Room:

    Tupper Thomas, president of the Prospect Park Alliance, a nonprofit organization that raises money and organizes special projects for the park, said she had no official position on the change. “The alliance doesn’t take stances on policy at all,” she said, adding, “As the park administrator, it’s always wonderful the more time that is available for the public to use the park as a recreational resource.”

  • Chevy

    Think the idea of reducing car lanes to one lane is a great one. I ride in the park almost every morning, and the cars in the left lane get sooo close sometimes.

    There really isn’t enough room for both joggers, walkers, rollerbladers and bikes in two small lanes.

    Most of the aggresive Spandex Bikers leave at 7.

  • Bob Marvin

    A REALLY BAD idea–isolates my nabe (PLG) during the evening rush hour.

  • Jones

    Feels good, but is ultimately a bad idea. Cuts off one part of the borough from another. Tons more cars will be on the sides of the park (especially the poem that is PPW to the Coney Island Ave traffic circle). If accidents involving pedestrians spike between 5-7 in the next few months (and they will) will it have been worth it?

  • jvf

    As a bike racer who trains in the park, I need to say that there is one guy who is there every day (not even a racer, just an aggressive rider) who screams at everyone and gives us all a bad rap. 99% of racers are courteous and have top notch skills to boot.

  • ZK

    It’s Sadik-Khan, not Kahn.

  • Brooklyn

    22 and 23: I hope you’re being sarcastic.

    Otherwise — cry me a river. Isolated? DOT closed the EAST DRIVE of PROSPECT PARK. They did NOT close Coney Island Avenue, Prospect Park West, Prospect Park Southwest, Ocean Avenue, Parkside Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Eastern Parkway or any other street.

    A combination of ANY of the above will get you around what you apparently think is the tree-choked abomination that cuts you off from the rest of civilization.

  • SPer

    Jones —

    “Tons more cars will be on the sides of the park”

    “Tons”???

    I have viewed the traffic on PPW during the evening rush many, many times. What’s so incredibly infuriating about traffic through the park is that it’s completely unnecessary because PPW can easily carry the traffic load. I’m less familiar with Flatbush, but doubt that the situation is very much different.

    The volume of cars driving through Prospect Park isn’t actually that great, but of course the impact on the experience of being in the park, or of exercising on the Park Drives is tremendous.

    “Cut off”???

    Get on the Q train, you fool.

  • Bob Marvin

    Brooklyn,
    I was being quite serious in comment # 22–no sarcasm intended.

    BTW, I run every day in PP–there are lots of great internal trails away from traffic and MUCH nicer than the park drive–even w/o cars.

  • Dave

    Bob,

    I’m pretty certain you’re going to find that there are still quite a few streets leading in and out of Prospect Lefferts Garden during the two additional hours per day that the East Drive is now closed to cars.

  • g

    Plus, running on some of those internal trails is not safe at certain hours of the day, especially for women running alone. (Not to mention that they’re generally inadequate for bike riding or roller blading.)

    Keeping cars off the main loop encourages people to use one of the park’s prime assets: a wide open, heavily used exercise route, with lots of “eyes on the street” to keep everyone safe.

  • SPer

    Bob,

    Yes, of course one can retreat farther into the park to avoid the unpleasantness of automobile traffic. Of course, this is why park usage declines during automobile hours. Most people who use Prospect Park are not looking for a deep woods adventure. Allowing cars on the Park Drives effectively SHRINKS the Park. You have to walk that much farther to escape the city. During car-free hours, peace and quiet envelope you within just a coupple of minutes of entering the park. During car hours, you are instead sandwiched between two streets with traffic and much go much farther to get away from street noise.

    Bob, if you feel that closing the East Drive during the evening rush cuts you off from the rest of Brooklyn, how were you managing before? I mean, the East Drive was usually closed, even before this additional closure. Do you spend your weekends and weekday hours completely confined to PLG? Was Monday through Friday, 7-9 and 5-7 the only time you ever went anywhere? Weird…

  • mork

    If you’re concerned about the number of cars on non-park roads, join the majority of you neighbors and don’t drive.

  • Andrew

    Closing East Drive to evening rush hour traffic has created nightmare levels of traffic congestion in the neighborhood to the east of the park.

    In a couple of months the number of bikers and joggers using East Drive will plummet. But traffic from the closure will continue… making the air dirtier, increasing CO2 emissions, increasing asthma rates, increasing ambulance response times and generally decreasing quality of life.

  • Smith

    Andrew,

    I absolutely feel your pain but traffic congestion in the neighborhoods east of the park was nightmarish last fall and the fall before that too. Traffic all around Downtown Brooklyn got nightmarish as soon as school and work kicked back in last week.

    The nightmarish traffic on the east side of the park has very little to do with the closure of the Park Drive and opening the Drive back up to cars will do little to nothing to end the nightmare.

    It’s time for us to start thinking and talking about ways that we can help make it easier and more convenient for Brooklynites to get around without a car. Sacrificing Prospect Park to the traffic gods isn’t going to do it.

  • greg

    i agree with smith….its imperative that we come up with better ways to get around brooklyn without a car…it will take time, and it will require lots of peoplt to change habits…but in the long run it will result in a more livable city for everyone

  • d

    I think that the traffic around the east side of the park has ALWAYS been bad, but now that the park drive has been closed (and only for an additional two hours per day, it’s worth remembering) people have something to pin it on. “Traffic’s bad? Must be that stupid park closure!”

    In reality, the park is very low down on the list of why the streets are clogged with cars.

  • Andrew

    I strongly suspect that the closure has made a very bad situation even worse. Smith, et al. suspect otherwise.

    But suppose,that I’m right and that clear and convincing evidence is presented that the closure had a negative impact. Would you agree that Drive should be reopened on a limited basis?

  • d

    No. I would not.

    I would favor changes to streets to make traffic flow better. I would favor changes to public transportation to move buses and cabs faster. I would favor the addition of express buses for commuters to Manhattan. I would favor any of dozens of changes that could be made to decrease traffic in residential neighborhoods.

    But I would not favor having cars go through a park. We need to start from a place of realizing that cars do not belong in parks. (The traffic is only going to get worse as NYC grows; does that mean we should widen the drive in Prospect Park?)

    That cars were let in at all was a historical accident and now we know the consequences. It didn’t work out. So we are in the process of correcting that mistake and are slowly turning back the clock on cars in the park, and getting it back to its original intent.

    We need creative solutions to traffic congestion and should no fall back on the default of opening up the park.

    I think the drives could be opened in one circumstance: late at night when it is dark. While there is daylight, those who can not afford gyms or soccer and Little League deserve a clean, quiet, and safe place to exercise and play.

  • Smith

    Andrew,

    The only way I’d agree to re-opening the East Drive to cars for a period of time would be if, simultaneously, plans were put in place to reduce traffic congestion and car trips on the streets around the park.

    If the city said something like, look, we’re converting Flatbush Avenue to bus rapid transit, we’re taking over the dollar vans and professionalizing them, we’re adding lots of new bus service and reducing fares, we’re building out extensive bike infrastructure for local trips, we’re turning some key streets in the area into pedestrian and bus-only streets, we’re doing market-rate on-street parking on the shopping streets and residential parking permits in the neighborhoods, we’re not allowing any more big parking garages to be built in the vicinity, we’re ratcheting up subway service and we’re tolling the Manhattan Bridge to push some Flatbush Ave traffic into the Battery Tunnel — and we just need to let cars use the park for a year while we get some of this stuff into place. I could be swayed something like that.

    But if it’s just: Traffic’s bad on the east side of the park, let’s shove some of that traffic into the park to try to make it better — I don’t see how that really solves the problem. Traffic congestion is just going to fill whatever road capacity you give it.

  • Andrew

    D- You express concern that “those who can not afford gyms or soccer and Little League deserve a clean, quiet, and safe place to exercise and play.” The very folks you’re concerned about live on the east side of the park in the neighborhood most affected by the closure. They live in one of the City’s poorest neighborhoods with the worst health statistics. But their Community Board adamantly opposed the closure. This is because they know that keeping the Drive open for a couple of hours in the evening does not detract from their enjoyment of the park and because they know that it eases traffic congestion.

    Smith- Do you really believe that we can afford an increase in CO2 emissions and air pollution while we wait for the City to fix the mess we’re in?

  • Chris H

    Andrew,

    They “know” it reduces traffic congestion in their hearts, but that does not mean that they know it because of facts (largely because the evidence is contrary to this). Experience has shown that removing capacity does not significantly increase congestion in that area.

    More importantly, removing capacity decreases the total vehicle miles travelled. This is due to the inverse of induced demand (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand#Reduced_demand_.28the_inverse_effect.29)
    Many of those cars will not simply travel through the same area. Some will find a different path, some will change the time of the day they drive, some will not take the trip and some will switch to mass transit.

    The total vehicles travelling through the area will actually decrease resulting in better air quality for the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • d

    Andrew,

    That traffic is there whether the park is closed or not. Study after study has shown this. So we need to do more than just pin our hopes on one additional hour of driving through the park as a means to alleviate traffic in area neighborhoods.

  • Smith

    So, Andrew, you’re saying that allowing traffic to run through Prospect Park will help stop global warming and prevent Brooklyn kids from getting asthma?

    I suppose if we turned Prospect Park into a giant parking lot that would solve Park Slope’s parking shortage too.

    I agree with you that the southeastern side of the park has a horrible traffic problem. I just think that we need to talk about real solutions to that problem. All of the real solutions involve helping Brooklynites get around more easily by a mode of transport other than personal automobile. All of the real solutions involve less driving and fewer cars on our streets during peak hours. That means your car and mine are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And allowing cars in the park isn’t a real solution.

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