Despite the impressive shows of support from three Manhattan community boards over the last two weeks, the effort to take cars off of the Central Park loop for a summer-long trial hit a major snag last night. In a resounding vote of two to one with two abstentions, the transportation committee of CB 9 voted against the car-free trial.
Before last night, the car-free Central Park trial won the endorsement of five committees in three different community boards, with only one no vote between them all. Those committees were far larger than the CB 9 committee. Wednesday night’s vote at CB 8 was something along the lines of twenty to one. In contrast, it’s hard to say that the two opponents of the car-free trial last night have a much stronger claim to speak for the residents of Morningside Heights and West Harlem than the one supporter.
According to Ken Coughlin, a long-time leader in the effort to get cars out of Central Park, the two people who voted against the trial appeared dead set against it from the start. He also noted that the NYPD representative in attendance at the meeting made his opposition to the car-free park trial no secret.
Taking cars out of Central Park doesn’t require community board support; this is a decision that will be made at the mayoral level. So last night’s CB 9 vote isn’t an insuperable obstacle for car-free park advocates. Given the mayor’s current opposition to taking cars out of Central Park, however, building as strong a grassroots coalition of support as possible is critical.
To that end, it’s possible that advocates could bring the issue back before the full board meeting of CB 9 in two weeks with the goal of having the larger body overturn the committee’s decision.