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Car-Free Parks

Community Boards Step Up Opposition to Car-Free Prospect Park

12:34 PM EDT on October 1, 2008

Car-free park advocates deliver 10,000+ letters of support to City Hall.

Two weeks ago, the Prospect Park Youth Advocates delivered 10,000 signatures to City Hall asking for a three-month car-free trial. Now Community Boards 7 and 14, as well as a group called the Windsor Terrace Alliance, are demanding that the park remain open to traffic during the morning and evening rush.

Here's their core argument, advanced in a press release yesterday:

...if the bicyclists get their way, the City's Department of Transportation (DOT) will shift hundreds more cars per hour onto Prospect Park Southwest and Parkside Avenue, where traffic back-ups could create dangerous air quality problems for local families.

Putting aside the crude cyclist-baiting (as a pedestrian, I would also like to "get my way"), the predictions of carmaggedon are overblown. CB14 bases its projections on loop drive traffic counts from the 1990s, says Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives. In the meantime, car-free hours have increased dramatically, meaning there is much less traffic to displace than opponents acknowledge.

Then there's the question of whether the remaining traffic would shift to local streets at all. The basic assumptions behind the 11-year-old traffic study that CB14 cites have been thoroughly debunked. "We know from 40 years of experience that traffic is not like water," says Norvell. "A
lot of those trips shift to transit, to different periods of the day,
and some disappear altogether."

A car-free trial next summer could settle the debate. "We find it hard to understand why a
trial isn't worth doing at this point," adds Norvell. "This is about trying it, and seeing what happens. The fact that we've
gone from 24 hours a day, seven days a week to a few hours each workday without the sky falling shows that driving behavior
is a lot more flexible than people realize."

The Youth Advocates worked with numerous local partners in Districts 7 and 14 this summer, Norvell notes, including the Flatbush Development Corporation, Project Reach Youth, the Prospect Park Youth Council, Brooklyn College Academy, and Edward R. Murrow High School. Opponents claim that their communities have not been included in the discussion.

Photo: youthforcarfreeparks / Flickr

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