Prospect Park Goes Car-Free Forever on January 2

The mayor's announcement is the culmination of decades of steady advocacy and incremental progress.

Mayor de Blasio speaking at Grand Army Plaza this morning. Photo: David Meyer
Mayor de Blasio speaking at Grand Army Plaza this morning. Photo: David Meyer

As of January 2, no part of Prospect Park will ever be a traffic shortcut again, Mayor de Blasio announced this morning.

Sustained activism for a car-free Prospect Park had already prompted the city to cut the hours when through traffic is allowed down to weekdays from 7 to 9 a.m., and only on the park’s east side. With today’s announcement, the entire park will be free of private cars at all times.

“The park was not built with cars in mind. They didn’t exist. The park was built for people,” the mayor said at the Grand Army Plaza entrance. “This is getting back to the original idea of this park, restoring it to its original purpose.”

The west side of the Prospect Park loop has been off-limits to motor vehicle through traffic since 2015. Over the summer, DOT and the Parks Department conducted an eight-week car-free pilot to evaluate the impact on traffic on surrounding streets.

Traffic impacts were “minimal,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and after the car-free trial, fewer drivers used the park loop. Even before the trial, pedestrians and cyclists outnumbered motorists on the loop by more than 1,000 to 300 per hour, according to DOT.

Photo: David Meyer
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Borough President Eric Adams lead the celebratory bike ride through the soon-to-be permanently car-free Prospect Park. Photo: David Meyer

A big proponent of making the park completely car-free has been Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in stark contrast with his predecessor. “I use this park all the time in the morning to bike,” Adams said today. “This is a significant moment for us all.”

It’s been 50 years since the first victory in the campaign to get cars out of Prospect Park. For much of the 20th century, with the city ceding more and more space to automobiles, traffic was essentially allowed on the park loop all day, every day. Then in 1967 the city made Prospect Park car-free on weekends. Not much changed for the next 25 years.

In the 1990s, Transportation Alternatives revived the campaign for a car-free park, gathering tens of thousands of signed postcards calling on Borough President Howard Golden to remove traffic during the summer. Over the course of many years and several thousand volunteer hours — including massive petition drives in 2002 and 2008 — advocates were able to get DOT to gradually whittle down the times and places where cars were allowed in the park. Car-free hours were expanded, motor vehicle entrances to the park were cut off, and traffic lanes were reduced.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of all those campaigns, right up to the ride for a car-free park during the morning rush hour two weeks ago.

Calista DeJesus, a resident of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and member of Brooklyn Community Board 9’s transportation committee, said she looks forward to commuting through the park without having to worry about car traffic.

“Especially riding and walking in the park, and having to commute during rush hour when cars are driving pass, it wasn’t always easy being cramped up along with the joggers,” she said. “It’s really exciting to know [there’s] a safe way to commute in the park.”

  • 15 years ago nearly to the day on Halloween.

  • KeNYC2030

    Did anyone ask what about restoring Central Park to it’s original purpose as well?

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Ahh, Bill de Blasio! He’s everywhere!

  • JK

    Huge congratulations to Jeff Prant, Aaron Naparstek, Eric McClure, Clarence Eckerson and to the many dozens of awesome TA volunteers from the Brooklyn Committee who collected tens of thousands of signatures, attended countless community board meetings and spoke up for a car free park, year after year after year. Wow, this took a really long-time —so long that people who worked on this campaign when it started, have since had kids and raised them to adulthood. Credit de Blasio with finally making the park car-free, something that Bloomberg could have done just as easily during his twelve years. Something to celebrate today and then on to car-free Central Park!

  • Bob

    Nicely done, advocates. CP should hopefully be next. But, for today, this is an excellent accomplishment.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll have a forever feeling when Grand Army Plaza is reconfigured to account for the change. The signal for cars exiting the park currently stops traffic in just about every other direction.

  • And Boom a second and fatal blow to Irish Weinshall!

  • Vooch

    Indeed

    well done TA Brooklyn ! I honestly thought it would never happen, but you did it !!!!

  • reasonableexplanation

    They still haven’t re-timed most lights outside of manhattan for the new 25mph speed limit either. So don’t hold your breath.

  • Thanks JK. So many others to add here as you already know: Carl Biers, Andrew McConnell, Marina Bekkerman, Alan Mukamal, Diana Gavales, Dave Abraham, and all the new blood, not even a close to exhaustive list. I could put 100 names here and others could add hundreds more!!

  • Gowanus Kings

    finally.
    Now can DOT please re-stripe the loop road? I want it to be 2-ways so you can choose which hill to climb.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I don’t know if bidirectional will ever happen, but they should at least make the current “car lane” the bike lane, and split the current center lane into added cycling and walking space.

    Service vehicles can use the bike side at a safe speed, and should probably use the adjacent streets outside of the park to get as close as possible to where they are going first.

  • Now we need to fix Flushing Meadow Park. Cars are allowed on the entire Meridian Road, at all times of day. That should not be.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    Are they going to remove all traffic signals within the park? Or can cyclists still be given a ticket (in theory) for running a red light on a car free road?

  • Joe R.

    They should do this yesterday, and also do the same in the now car-free section of Central Park. No other place on Earth with just cyclists and pedestrians has or needs traffic signals. People come to a park to get a respite from the stress and mechanization of the city. Traffic lights are part of that stress. They have no business being in a park.

  • Where is Jeff Prant these days? I’d love to hear his reaction.

    Also Noah Budnick, who was heading up the Brooklyn Committee for a spell.

  • Maybe a properly-pulled pint o’ Guinness would do her some good.

  • Christina Beahan

    noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Has anyone tried to get around the park in the morning when everyone is taking their kids to school???? It’s impossible. This is a nightmare for parents commuting their children to schools outside the neighborhood. And I run, walk, bike the park all the time and definitely support it being car free most of the day but during the morning hours it’s been a savior for overcrowded trains and unsafe bike routes for children. Especially in the winter. I.just.want.to.safely.get.my.kid.to.school.

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