Community Boards Line Up for Car-Free Central Park. Whither Bloomberg?

By unanimous voice vote, the full board of Manhattan CB 11 has passed a resolution endorsing a summer trial for a car-free Central Park. Says park advocate Ken Coughlin, “We have the agreement of all the boards surrounding the park and are now waiting for a response from DOT on whether they will move ahead with a July 4 weekend to Labor Day closing.”

The proposal has gained near-universal support at the community board level, with hundreds of board members voting in favor and only a handful of votes against, and is simpatico with the wishes of Central Park Conservancy head Douglas Blonsky. But it will need a push to overcome resistance from Mayor Bloomberg.

Coughlin says the next step will be a public campaign by Council Member Gale Brewer and others. (Streetsblog has messages in with Brewer’s office for details.) The Manhattan Borough Board must also cast an official vote on the resolution, Coughlin says, “Which will give us another opportunity to raise the issue, but we hope we won’t need it by then.”

Not only would the trial give users much needed room and the freedom to enjoy the city’s premier green space without having to dodge cars and suck exhaust this summer, the effect would spill over into surrounding neighborhoods, which could expect a major drop in cut-through traffic. Given the benefits and such a diverse base of approval, it’s hard to imagine what constituency the mayor would be playing to by refusing to close the Loop Drive for two months.

  • Anonymous

    walking through Central Park this morning, something I haven’t done in a while, was very sad. It has become nothing else but a highway for cars, with some trees on either side.

  • Puck

    It is very easy to imagine the constituency that the mayor is playing to by having cars in Central Park:  a handful of super wealthy Upper East Siders that use Central Park as a driving short cut.  The mayor’s refusal to close the loop road to cars is a demonstration of how real politics works in NYC: a handful of rich drivers interests trump the hundreds of thousands of people who would regularly benefit from a car free park.

  • Mark Walker

    Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

    I have voted for you three times. In both of your re-election campaigns, it was on the strength of your record on livable streets issues.

    Please say yes to the closure of the Central Park loop drives. They should never have been opened to cars in the first place. New Yorkers need our parks to serve as havens from the noise, pollution, and physical threat of cars.

    You have not clearly articulated a valid reason why you oppose this initiative, which has widespread community support. I do not classify your statement that “it would create an awful lot of traffic” as valid. Talk to your own DOT commissioner. I’m sure she’d be glad to set you straight regarding how roads induce traffic.

    Could it be that you are afraid of a bikelash response similar to the one in Brooklyn? With all respect to my friends in Brooklyn, Manhattan is not Brooklyn. Our borough has a higher percentage of car-free households. We have already assimilated car-free spaces in the very center of the city. For us, removing cars from some roads in Central Park (while leaving the transverse roads open) is not a heavy lift.

    Please do what we, your constituents, elected you to do.

    Sincerely yours
    Mark Walker

  • Albert

    I recall that Bloomberg, during an interview on WNYC when he was running for, I think, his 2nd term, tried to excuse his lack of support for a car-free Central Park with, “It’s a shame that the park’s designers didn’t sink the loop below grade like they did the transverses.  If they had, then I’d support making the park car-free.”

    Which showed his fundamental misunderstanding of the difference in purpose, design and function between the loop and the transverses.  I’d suppose he’s been educated since then and knows he has no good reason not to support a trial closing.

  • Jeff

    Regardless of whether they belong in the park in the first place, I’ve noticed that motorists, especially in NYC, seem to have trouble adapting to different environments.  Whether they are on a quiet residential street, a bustling shopping/nightlife corridor, or a park drive, it’s all the BQE to them, and it sets the tone for the rest of us, whether or not we’re behind the wheel, with the honking and aggressive passing and speeding.  Why do we always have to live on their terms?  We invite them into our parks, into our neighborhoods, into our urban centers–the least they can do is show a little respect.

  • Olmsted and Vaux

    Note to Howard Wolfson: if you want to nip the “Bloomberg and JSK don’t listen to the community” meme in the bud you should listen to the community and approve a car-free Central Park.

  • J

    Does anyone have an inside scoop on this? It doesn’t seem consistent with Bloomberg’s other transportation moves, and the logic of it seems to escape me. Perhaps influential political figures from uptown use it as a cut-through on their way to work, and somehow have he mayor’s ear on this one? We need to get councilmembers on record with regard to the closures. It’s all well and good to have the support of the community boards, but it’s the councilmembers who may actually vote on this.

    Currently, Intro 496, which aims to permanently close the loop drives in Central & Prospect Park has only 5 sponsors (Gale A. Brewer, Fernando Cabrera , Letitia James, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Daniel Dromm), only 2 of which are from Manhattan. Notably missing are Dan Garodnick (UES), Inez Dickens (Harlem), Robert Jackson (West Harlem/Washington Heights), Jessica Lapin (UES), & Christine Quinn (Midtown/West Side).

  • Station44025

    I have been assuming it is either a) some kind of chit to be traded for something at a future date, or b) a strategy to make people beg for a car free park thereby avoiding the inevitable pro-car NY Post thrashing.  Maybe he’s just a nut on this issue, but I think there has to be more to it than that.

  • Big Big Big applause to long time car free park advocate Ken Coughlin on this. Bloomberg’s opposition is flat out ridiculous and insulting at this point, while Ken’s efforts to rally so many local voices is remarkable and outstanding. I am in awe.