DOT: “No Plans at This Time” for Car-Free Central Park Trial

Every community board surrounding Central Park has supported taking cars off the park loop for a summertime trial, but DOT has no plans to give kids and families more car-free time to bike. Photo: Asterix611 ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/28722563@N05/2779376867/##via Flickr.##

The July 4 weekend is upon us and with it, the height of summer. If Manhattan’s community boards had their way, summertime would mean a trial closure of Central Park’s loop drive to cars.

A resolution to try out such a closure from “the summer months through Labor Day” earned the support of Community Boards 5, 7, 8, 9, and 11. Unanimous committee votes from CBs 1 and 10 showed those boards’ support. Every board surrounding the park has taken a stand in support of such a trial.

Given that summer is now in full swing, we checked in with the Department of Transportation to see whether they were going to listen to these communities and try taking cars off of the loop for the summer.

“There are no plans at this time,” was all that a DOT spokesperson would say. That’s not a hard “no,” but at this point in the summer, it’s awfully close.

Ken Coughlin, a member of Community Board 7 and a leading advocate for a car-free Central Park had this to say about DOT’s stance:

DOT’s response is disappointing and puzzling. The request for a trial closing is coming from the community – all the communities surrounding the park. In the past, DOT has been incredibly responsive to community needs and opinions. Moreover, the idea of a car-free trial is consistent with DOT’s other initiatives to make our streets safer and more livable.

But suddenly, all bets are off when it comes to even a short-term closing of Central Park to traffic. The communities around the park, their elected representatives, and the more than 100,000 who have signed the petition calling for a car-free park deserve better than this brush-off.

Added Mel Wymore, the chair of CB 7:

The proposed trial closure is consistent with the Mayor’s and DOT’s clear commitment to pedestrian safety, car-free zones, and data-driven street design. What better place to apply these principles than in Central Park, the city’s most frequented sanctuary? Given broad consensus among multiple communities, it’s a win-win-win proposition.

One thing we’d add to their remarks. A car-free trial might be consonant with the city’s agenda and extremely popular with the communities surrounding the park, but there’s one important Central Park neighbor who isn’t on board. Upper East Sider Michael Bloomberg doesn’t agree with his community board on this one, having consistently opposed a car-free park, even for a trial period.

  • Mark

    Mayor Bloomberg:    Please give the trial closure a chance.   So many people would benefit, and so few would be inconvenienced.   A trial closure provides the opportunity for so much upside with so little downside.   I have a hard time understanding your reasoning on this issue.   Given the overwhelming public support for a closure, it would be nice to get an coherent explanation of the decision not the give the trial a try.  

  • fdr

    If Mayor Bloomberg has been consistenly opposed to a car free park even for a trial period, why are you surprised that DOT won’t consider it?

  • fdr

    If Mayor Bloomberg has been consistenly opposed to a car free park even for a trial period, why are you surprised that DOT won’t consider it?

  • So Bay Ridge Parkway bike lane scrapped, Fort Greene’s Lafayette Ave bike lane scrapped, Fort Hamilton pedestrian refuge island scrapped… this year’s cautious DOT wants to only do what has overwhelming community board support. Yet, a car-free central park with the blessing of every CB that borders it is out of the question?! WTF? DOT is really screwing themselves with this one, as well as every park user.

  • Bolwerk

    The so-called “liberals” really need to take a lesson from the Republikan playbook: just boldly go car-free in all kinds of areas, and make some token drawdowns to distract the authoritarian op-ed press. People like Steve Cuozzo are at least so stupid that they can’t pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

  • Anonymous

    Thus confirming the [generally unfounded] belief that the DOT and Bloomberg do not listen to communities.  Or, to put it the way the New York Post describes bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, Bloomberg is ramming cars down Central Park’s throat.

  • mwalker

    The timing of this event coincides queasily with the Times’ opportunistically confusing hatchet job on the mayor’s use of pilot projects.

  • Mark

    The mayor’s refusal to even give a trial closure a shot makes his transportation policies seem totally skitzophenic and confusing.   Somehow taking road space away from cars in front of Senator Schumer’s doorstep is OK, but when it comes to touching a road that he might drive on himself, a trial closure is rejected in the face of overwhelming community support.  New York City needs clarity about the harm that traffic does to our city.   JSK takes an incredible amount of heat for working to make our streets safer and our city more livable.   A trial closure of the loop road in Central Park provides the Mayor with an excellent opportunity to explain to a confused city the benefits of reducing our car usage.  By failing to do so, he leaves JSK standing alone in the line of fire.

  • FOILed Again?

    C’mon, DOT, time to regrow a pair.  Advocates have been working their tails off on this, have gained overwhelming community support, and it’s high time to move forward on this and projects like the 1st and 2nd Avenue protected lanes.

    Are we going to let the Jim Waldens and Louise Hainlines and Marcia Kramers succeed in making NYC’s streets less safe?  These projects are the future.

  • Nymint

    ME ME ME Lets just close down the city cause some yahoos from the mid west found a couple of roommates & rented an apartment on the upper west side or harlem. Boo-HOOO! PLEASE Help us Mr MIKE… We cannot afford cars anyway, all we have are our bikes, skateboards & skippies. Make upper east siders go arround the park up to HARLEM (where we live) to get to LINCOLN CENTER, BEACON  THEATERS MUSEUMS ETC. Please guys, if you dont like it here just go back to the farm where the big bad cars trurn you into roadkill..

    (Opps, I think I just saw Bearded Jesus get hit by a cab will he was on a skateboard).

  • Nymint

    ME ME ME Lets just close down the city cause some yahoos from the mid west found a couple of roommates & rented an apartment on the upper west side or harlem. Boo-HOOO! PLEASE Help us Mr MIKE… We cannot afford cars anyway, all we have are our bikes, skateboards & skippies. Make upper east siders go arround the park up to HARLEM (where we live) to get to LINCOLN CENTER, BEACON  THEATERS MUSEUMS ETC. Please guys, if you dont like it here just go back to the farm where the big bad cars trurn you into roadkill..

    (Opps, I think I just saw Bearded Jesus get hit by a cab will he was on a skateboard).

  • Local

    Nymint, a person going to Lincoln Center from the Upper East Side would use the traverses to get through Central Park.  No need to take the loop when the park was designed with cut-throughs out of the way of park users.

    But I’m sure the hundreds of community board members are all a bunch of yahoos from the midwest rooming together on the Uppwer West Side and Harlem.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, broke skateboarding Midwesterners with roommates, having just moved here, have made their first priority the infiltration of ALL of the community boards surrounding Central Park, thus wresting control of the city from the Real New Yorkers who never ride the subway or use the park because they drive everywhere. That sounds true.

  • MR

    Although a test is probably a good idea, in fairness, there’s a difference between “the community” and “the Community Board.”

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