Foes of a Car-Free Trial in Prospect Park Demand Environmental Review

randy_peers_alvin_berk_jim_brennan.jpgIn another case of 1970s-era environmental law being turned on its head, Brooklyn Community Boards 7 and 14 are demanding that the city conduct an environmental review before implementing a proposed, three month car-free trial in Prospect Park next summer. At a press event this morning attended by 19 people near the Park Circle entrance to the park, Assemblyman Jim Brennan joined CB7 chair Randy Peers and CB14 chair Alvin Berk, calling for an Environmental Impact
Statement to study the matter.

A car-free park "could have a major environmental impact," said
Brennan, who co-signed a letter with the CB chairs asking DOT
Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan for the EIS. Similar use of environmental regulations have postponed the development of San Francisco’s bike lane network for three years.

In the midst of calling for the environmental impact study, typically a lengthy and expensive process, Peers made clear that he had already reached his own conclusion. "Closing the park to traffic is unacceptable even for a trial period," he said.

The Car-Free Prospect Park Campaign is a decades-long volunteer advocacy effort led by Transportation Alternatives, a member-driven organization with a strong base of support in the neighborhoods around Prospect Park. Two weeks ago, youth advocates delivered 10,001 signatures to City Hall
in support of a car-free park. During the summer of 2002 a volunteer effort organized by T.A. produced approximately 15,000 signatures, a 400-person town hall meeting and the support of all five Council members with districts abutting the park. Subsequent expansions of car-free hours in Prospect Park have repeatedly failed to validate dire predictions of traffic cataclysm outside the park.

Nevertheless, Peers finds these community organizing efforts despicable. "We abhor the tactics of the bicycle advocacy group," he said. "They tried the
same tactics when they tried to shove Residential Parking Permits down
our throats. They’re a well-financed advocacy group representing a
minority view."

Assemblyman Jim Brennan can be reached here:

416 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-788-7221

brennaj [at] assembly.state.ny.us

Photo: Randy Peers (with green sheet), flanked by Assemblyman Jim Brennan (beige suit) and Alvin Berk (bearded).

  • Larry Littlefield

    That’s why Brennan is going to vote in favor of a state budget that slashes NYC’s share of state school aid again this recession, sending the schools into another downward spiral. There was no EIS to determine if higher school funding would have socio-economic and land use impacts, by attracting people who care about their kids some of whom live in new buildings.

    Same with the improvments to the transit system. They should be reversed until a study is done, followed by ULURP and several years of lawsuits.

    NYC isn’t “Progressive.” It’s “feudal.” A better deal for those who have a good deal, and no elections.

    http://www.r8ny.com/blog/larry_littlefield/feudal_new_york

  • Braddy

    Yes, a car free Prospect Park could result in unacceptably high levels of fresh air.

  • mike

    “…advocacy group representing a minority view.”

    Heh, that’s a good one. Doesn’t sound like Randy Peers knows his community very well.

  • Community boards are appointed by the borough presidents and city council members. If I lived in one of those districts, the electeds would be hearing from me about this.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    This may come as a shock to Randy and Alvin but motor vehicle owners are, in fact, the minority in New York City. Yet, our city is dominated by their stupid contraptions. Most of us don’t own cars and would like to have at least one place where we can go and not have to see, hear, smell and dodge traffic.

  • Brennan is going to get a long letter from me. Larry said it best, feudal.

  • J

    Hopefully, NY judges have more sense than those in San Francisco. The road closure cannot and will not produce any additional vehicle trips. It will produce new transit, walking, and bicycling trips. This is purely a stunt to throw a roadblock to the inevitable. If they aren’t willing to do a trial run, than they aren’t interested in the truth.

  • Streetsman

    There is no precedent for doing an EIS for temporary, non-capital projects on a trial basis. The reason he doesn’t want it can only be because he knows the trial would work out perfectly fine and he wants traffic to be able to use the park.

  • “minority view”…ha

    what a bunch of backward looking tools

  • Why cant we get around these pathetic arguments? Why cant DoT or Parks put in a 6 mph speed limit for motorized vehicles? Let’s get all DDartley on their car centric selves. Horse trot speed would discourage passing through.
    And I second everything what the Right Honorable Marty Barfowitz said.

  • Streetsman

    I don’t know politics. I hate them. But it seems like a really foolish move to come out publicly in opposition to this convincing and sympathetic group:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/09/16/youth-advocates-deliver-10000-letters-calling-for-car-free-prospect-park/

    That’s why two councilmembers (including my own) were there on the steps of City Hall in support of the proposal. I think Jim Brennan is making an obvious mistake. This could very quickly be portrayed as a class issue – with the wealthy car-driving Park Slope/Windsor Terrace/Kensington residents on the west and south sides of the park looking like evil whities taking recreation, health and safety away from the poorer African-American and West Indian populations on the north and east sides. I don’t think escalating this to the media is a saavy political move. Has Jim Brennan really taken the temperature of his constituency on this issue, or is he just capitulating to two sour community board chairs?

    Besides the obvious comparison to the dire predictions made before Washington Square Park was closed to traffic 44 years ago, and all the traffic engineers basically telling Jane Jacobs to go f**k herself because the traffic was going to subsume all of Greenwich Village, do these guys also need to be reminded that the recent study showed that 90% of the drivers in the park were found to be driving above the speed limit? They are advocating for documented law-breaking. Think about that.

  • James

    The CB’s request is not legit. A temporary closing of Prospect Park would definitely not meet the threshold for an EIS under SEQR regs. It’ll get thrown out. This would fall under SEQR as a Type II action, those which do not require further environmental review. Section 617.5(c)(15). which states:

    “minor temporary uses of land having negligible or no permanent impact on the environment;”

    This section includes activities such as:

    * allowing use of state lands for public gatherings,
    * allowing use of a parking lot in a public park as a temporary leaf collection station while a permanent facility is being located, and
    * the conversion of a small portion of a public park to parking for 18 months to allow renovation of a hospital.

    No worries. Now, a permanent closing could potentially trigger an EIS.

  • m-o

    Um,
    The environmental impact of *not* letting cars drive through parks?

    Why can’t we demand EIS for existing and ongoing policies?

    Oy vey.

  • I’d like to echo Susan Donovan’s recent call–maybe it’s time to disband the community boards, which seem more like warts on the ass of progress rather than anything else. And while we’re at it, how about we ditch environmental review processes, which seem to be used primarily for obstructing environmentally beneficial initiatives such as mass transit improvements, bicycle infrastructure build-outs, and car-free parks?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The environmental impact of *not* letting cars drive through parks? Why can’t we demand EIS for existing and ongoing policies?”

    Feudalism. Those who benefit from existing arrangements believe what is should be. Back to your hovel, serf.

  • There’s a place for people like Brennan… and it’s not in politics.

  • fdr

    The city hasn’t even said they are going to do this. It’s just a petition from an advocacy group. Seems premature to be demanding an EIS on a project that hasn’t even been officially proposed by the city.

  • anonymouse

    It never ceases to amaze me how people, such as these pro-car folks, can advocate for positions so fundamentally injurious to their well-being.

  • Then why don’t they open the park to car 24/7. I am sure that would help move traffic move faster in the neighborhoods. Hey, while we are at it, why do we let cars park on the side walks, then there would be more room to drive…….

  • The Tardis

    We got rid of Martin Connor in part because he wasn’t doing the right thing, maybe it is time for Brennan to lose his job? Who wants to run next cycle, you know the $$$ will start flowing.

  • Rather than a racial divide, I saw this as an age/class divide. The little old folks of WT driving to their doctors’ appointments and the soccer moms driving to games were the 2 constituencies seemingly represented by “residents” at Peers’ press conference; they’re probably seen as better bread-and-butter at the box office (I mean, voting booth) than younger, greener folks on bikes. Hey, even as a park cyclist myself, I sympathize with the pro-car crowd, too–public transit is an ugly alternative if you’re taking a frail elder to the podiatrist or a passle of kids to a distant event, and I’ve done both (in my car, sometimes through the park). But in a perfect world, leaders would look beyond the next election to the greater good and the longer range. (ROFL)

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I sympathize with the pro-car crowd, too–public transit is an ugly alternative if you’re taking a frail elder to the podiatrist or a passle of kids to a distant event, and I’ve done both (in my car, sometimes through the park).

    Brenda, I think you pretty much nailed it though I’m not sure it’s a class divide so much as a generational one.

    What’s strange to me about this line of thinking (that you have to use a car to take an elderly person to the doctor) is that making Prospect Park car-free does not in ANY WAY prevent ANYONE from driving their elderly relative to the doctor! There are still thousands of miles of streets available for motorists to use throughout the borough Brooklyn. As for the poor, beleaguered Windsor Terrace motorist, he’s still got Prospect Park West, a veritable four-lane freeway. He’s got Flatbush Avenue, a straight shot to the Manhattan Bridge. He’s got the Prospect Expressway, literally, a FREEWAY that cuts through his own neighborhood to facilitate fast motor vehicle travel to Lower Manhattan.

    Setting aside 2 miles of Prospect Park’s loop drives for recreational use for three months of the summer isn’t going to prevent any driver from reaching his or her destination by car. Brooklynites who would like to find some outdoor refuge from the endless noise, fumes and danger of motor vehicles have no alternatives. Prospect Park is all we’ve got. Let us have that.

  • Streetsman

    That is a good demographic for them to play up, but all I know from the press conference is what I see in the photo – 5 middle-aged white men.

    The little old lady trying to get to a doctors appointment is a very sympathetic case. Of course we all know that:

    1. Seniors are the age demographic with the lowest percentage of car ownership in the city. What seniors need to get around is better bus service, better paratransit, and safer streets for pedestrians.

    2. Nothing about closing the park to traffic prevents anybody from getting anywhere, they just have to select a different route.

    3. The park drive is currently only open at rush hours (7-9am and 5-7pm). Assuming a doctor’s office is open 9-5, appointments in the hour between 9-10am are really the only appointments one would be using the drive for now. Somehow little old ladies are getting to appointments between 10-5 without using the drive and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

  • killbikersnow

    sheesh, I find it really funny that people are posting about cars that “speed” in the park, when the bikers are just as guilty of this AND they ALWAYS run EVERY single red light in the park.If the cops were not so lazy you would all be getting tickets. Sorry bikers, but you don’t get to complain about cars when you ignore the rules your self. Bikes are a MENACE in the park, they think that everyone else has to move out of their way, they frequently exceed the speed limit (yes, bikes MUST follow the law) and they do hit pedestrians. I have had bikers yell at me when I am crossing the “loop” with the walk signal, AND I am in the crosswalk to “Get out of their (insert obscenity of choice here) way”. What this really is all about is that bikers think that they should have exclusive use of the park, and to hell with anyone else if they don’t like it. It is an incredibly extreme position, especially in light of the fact that there are PLENTY of other areas that are dedicated to bike use. I live right across the street from the park and traffic can be terrible, the streets are just simply not set up to handle more traffic and that is a fact.I am not a fan of cars, which is one reason I live here, but the facts are that in a city like this, you have to share, different peoples needs have to be balanced. Grow up.

  • epkwy

    so glad that these people want to minimize congestion/pollution by keeping cars off of THEIR streets by ensuring that more cars can drive in and out of the park at Grand Army Plaza, and contribute to congestion/pollution on Flatbush, Vanderbilt, Washington Aves…

  • This reminds me of San Francisco, where one old geezer is holding up the city from putting in more bike lanes and bike racks over an EIR! Sheesh!

    See, Bicycle Blues:

    http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rankings/articles/sf%27s-bicycle-blues-would-the-city%27s-bike-plan-do-more-harm-than-good/R11OYFJFZ3ISP8R1Z84VXD4UISP8

  • Streetsman

    killbikers, I think you lost all credibility the moment you put “speed” in quotation marks, as if it’s some nebulous concept – makes it pretty obvious that speeding, while dangerous and illegal, is of no consequence to you.

    That said, I find it curious that your position here is that cyclists’ bad behavior somehow justifies allowing cars to drive in a park. Two wrongs make a right, is that it?

    I realize you are a novice when it comes to traffic calming, since you don’t know that closing streets reduces, not increases, the amount of traffic on neighboring streets (that goes for you too, epkwy). But education is what Streetsblog is all about! Howabout the loop be designed to make pedestrians safer instead of having to compete with both bikes AND cars? Check out the photo in this new post showing a two-way bike lane with a textured crosswalk and a ped crossing sign:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/10/02/foes-of-car-free-trial-in-prospect-park-demand-environmental-review/

    If only we could just get the CARS out of our park and onto the streets where they belong, we could actually build a safe facility for bikers and pedestrians to share. But as long as cars are part of the equation, we are stuck with the speedway we have now.

  • As I guessed before, the Youth Advocates were marching the wrong way. They should have been going to the offices of Jim Brennan and these two community boards – or at least stopped at Borough Hall. Surely their advisors should have known better?

  • Streetsman

    I don’t care what you think about cyclists, and I don’t care if you don’t understand that design can change their behavior. I also don’t care if you can’t acknowledge that previous examples have repeatedly shown that closing streets that go through parks actually reduces congestion in the surrounding neighborhood. I can’t blame you for being unfamiliar with these principles. You just aren’t knowledgeable enough on the subject.

    But what confounds me, because you haven’t explained it, is why you think it’s appropriate for motor vehicles to be allowed to drive through a park where children run and play. Just because bikes are dangerous too is not a legitimate answer (although it is painfully amusing that you consider bikes to be a bigger menace than cars – my mother was nearly killed by a car once, but she was luckier than the other hundreds of pedestrians that die in New York City every year because they are stuck by vehicles. I DARE you to explain to anyone who has had a loved one killed by a reckless driver that bicycles are a bigger menace).

    “Welcome to education” – I know you’re trying to teach me, and I thank you for that. It’s charming. Let me expand a little bit on your lesson. There are TWO kinds of public space in New York that we all have to share, as you alluded to. Streets and parks. These are called “land uses”. It’s in the City Charter. Explaining it to you in very basic terms so you’ll understand, streets are for transportation, parks are for recreation.

    GET YOUR G*DDAMN CARS OUT OF OUR PARKS

  • Streetsman

    The comment I was responding to disappeared. I always seem to be most engaged by the comments that trip the censor. Ah well – the heck with this bozo

  • gecko

    There should be an environmental review of continuing to allow cars in the city. (Or, at least a referendum.)

  • killbikersnow, you actually don’t need to kill more than one biker. We have a shared consciousness you know. That’s why we ALL run red lights, it’s why we all ride fixies, and why we all wear trendy turned-up jeans… You only need to kill one biker and it will spread like a ripple in a pond, gradually killing us all off.

    Oh wait, maybe I’m wrong. Single bikers get killed TOO DAMN OFTEN, and the rest of us still live. My God, I’ve just realized that we are INDIVIDUALS!!! Now there’s a novel idea….

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