This Summer, Prospect Park Will Be Completely Car-Free for the First Time

The change gets cars off the park's East Drive during the morning rush and is scheduled to run through September 10.

Car traffic exiting Prospect Park's East Drive at Grand Army Plaza this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Car traffic exiting Prospect Park's East Drive at Grand Army Plaza this morning. Photo: David Meyer

Prospect Park will be completely car-free from July 17 through September 10, Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. It’s the first time since the campaigns to get cars out of Central Park and Prospect Park began generations ago that either one will cease to be a shortcut for car traffic for more than a few days at a time.

The two-month trial will get car traffic off the East Drive of the park, where it is currently permitted during the morning rush on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. The city says it will study traffic impacts before deciding whether to make the park car-free year-round.

The park’s West Drive has been off limits to general car traffic since July 2015, but one lane of the East Drive, near less affluent communities in Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Flatbush, has remained open to weekday rush hour traffic between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Photo: David Meyer
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at this morning’s announcement. Photo: David Meyer

DOT has said that higher traffic volumes on the East Drive are the reason it didn’t make that side of the park car-free. But at this point, not many people are driving through the park. Fewer than 300 motorists per hour use the East Drive when it’s open to car traffic, compared to more than 1,000 people biking, walking, and jogging there, according to DOT.

“We’re going to make this change over the summer, we’re going to collect data, see how it works in terms of traffic and safety, but we think it’s going to be tremendously popular,” Trottenberg said at a press conference this morning at the park’s Grand Army Plaza entrance.

The agency said traffic studies after the West Drive went car-free have shown that typical car travel times increased by about a minute on the most trafficked route around the park, and decreased on some other routes.

It’s not clear what conditions will have to be met for DOT to decide to make the park car-free all year, or when the agency will reach a conclusion.

In Central Park, meanwhile, car traffic is still permitted on 72nd Street and below.

Many years of advocacy and several campaigns for a car-free Prospect Park led up to this moment, chipping away at the times and locations where cars are allowed. In 2002, volunteers with Transportation Alternatives collected 10,000 signatures to get cars out of the park and got every City Council member abutting the park to endorse a summer trial. Here’s a look at the demonstrations from those campaigns:

In 2008, volunteer high school students with TransAlt’s Prospect Park Youth Advocates campaign collected over 10,000 signatures in favor of a car-free Prospect Park:

Then-Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz opposed the idea. But Eric Adams, the current borough president, has pushed DOT to try out a completely car-free park.

“Parks are for people, and people from all across Brooklyn and beyond will enjoy a safer and more serene Prospect Park as a result of this initiative,” Adams said in a statement today.

  • KeNYC2030

    In Central Park, we’ve collected 100,000 signatures for a car-free park and every community board surrounding the park has voted for a trial closing. The City Council member whose district encompasses the park wants a car-free park, as does the chair of the Council’s Parks committee, as does the Council’s current Speaker. You have to wonder what more it’s going to take.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    Statistic show that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is highest in the summer. It make no sense to reopen the park to cars after the summer to “ease congestion”. Not that a park should ever be used to “ease congestion”.

  • Boeings+Bikes

    Yeah, but no one really goes to Central Park or anything…

  • KeNYC2030

    And, of course, providing more roads to “ease congestion” is itself a fallacy.

  • Joe R.

    Have they at least taken out the traffic lights in the part which is now permanently car-free? That’s definitely something the local community boards can push for which will have no impact whatsoever on car traffic elsewhere in the park.

  • KeNYC2030

    The Central Park Conservancy continues to resist removing ANY of the 47 lights on the loop road, even those above 72nd St., although they are gradually moving to push-button activation for at least some of them, which is a small improvement.

  • Joe R.

    What a shame. I always though a big part of the reason for wanting to make the loop car-free was expressly so those traffic lights could be removed. Someone needs to explain to the Central Park Conservatory that no place else on Earth with just pedestrians and cyclists has or needs traffic signals.

    We might also emulate what the park’s original designer did and build bridges at the busier pedestrian crossings.

  • J

    Eric Adams continues to impress! A welcome change from the bad ole days of Marty Markowitz.

  • J

    It’ll take a mayor who isn’t driven everywhere.

  • walks bikes drives

    Nah, everyonw stays away from there. It’s just too crowded these days.

  • rao

    Even when streets are closed, there’s still plenty of traffic in the park due to Central Park Conservancy mismanagement. Yesterday mid-morning at Bethesda Terrace, I was startled by an oversized box truck delivering refrigerated bottles of coffee to one of the park’s cafes. If that has to happen at all, it should be scheduled for late at night when the park is closed.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

De Blasio Gets More Cars Out of Central Park and Prospect Park

|
Starting in a few weeks, people will be able to enjoy the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street and the west side of Prospect Park year-round without having to worry about motor vehicle traffic, Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. The changes will significantly reduce motor vehicle traffic in both parks while stopping short of […]

Prospect Park’s West Drive Is Now Permanently Car-Free

|
A week after Central Park went mostly car-free, today marked the beginning of the permanent car-free zone on the west side of Prospect Park [PDF]. Leading up to today, the traffic shortcuts through Prospect Park had been gradually winnowed down to one lane on the west side during the evening rush and one lane on the […]

Central Park Above 72nd Street Is Now Car-Free Forever

|
Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot […]

Car-Free Hours Extended in Prospect Park

|
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 […]