Press Conference at the Central Park Mall. Image credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.
Central Park has not been car-free for over a century, but things will change come summer. On April 20, 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Central Park will become completely car-free. The announcement came right before Earth Day 2018. Starting this June, the iconic greenspace’s Center Drive, Terrace Drive, East Drive, and West Drive will be permanently closed to cars. These closings follow the closure of Prospect Park’s entire loop drive in January. CityLand previously covered Prospect Park’s closings here.
The transition is being coordinated by the Department of Transportation, the New York City Parks Department, and the Central Park Conservancy. DOT projects the traffic increases on surrounding areas to be minimal, and DOT is closely monitoring the need to accommodate traffic changes. The transverse roadways at 97th, 86th, 79th and 65th Streets will not be affected by these changes.
In 2015, Mayor de Blasio began the transition to car-free parks by designating park drives north of 72nd Street as car-free and reduced the hours for car traffic for northbound cars. De Blasio also reduced hours to southbound traffic in Prospect Park West Drive.
Mayor de Blasio said: “Our parks are for people, not cars. For more than a century, cars have turned parts of the world’s most iconic park into a highway. Today we take it back. We are prioritizing the safety and the health of the millions of parents, children, and visitors who flock to Central Park.”
Bike riders at Central Park. Image credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said: “Today we proudly announce that Central Park will be car-free. As with Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which went permanently car-free earlier this year, the change will be welcome news to pedestrians, cyclists and those who love our parks.”
Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP said: “Central Park is not just one of New York’s favorite parks – it’s one of the most-beloved, most-recognized parks in the entire world. Now, we’re making history by demonstrating just how clean, accessible, and safe an urban park can be.”
Organizations like New York Road Runners and Five Borough Bike Club, which use Central Park for their activities, applauded a car-free Central Park. Michael Capiraso, NYRR President and CEO, stated that “At New York Road Runners our mission is to help and inspire people through running, and today this already amazing park goes car-free to enhance its beauty, safety, and accessibility for all runners.”
By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2017.)