Starting Monday, July 6, portions of Prospect Park will permanently become car-free—a change that has been decades in the making and that local community boards and advocacy groups have long awaited.
As announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday, June 18, Prospect Park’s West Drive between Grand Army Plaza and Park Circle, previously open to motor vehicle traffic for two hours on weekday afternoons, will be permanently reserved for recreation.
“Prospect Park has always been my family’s backyard. That’s a sentiment New Yorkers in every borough feel about their parks,” said de Blasio. “We’re taking a big step to returning our parks to the people, and that’s the whole idea to begin with. We’re creating safe zones for kids to play in, for bikers, for joggers, for everyone to know that they will be safer and they can enjoy the park in peace.”
According to the mayor’s office, the Department of Transportation (DOT) conducted extensive traffic analyses of the park’s loop drives and surrounding streets prior to undertaking the change.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg spoke to the matter of eventually making the entire park car-free, but first conducting the necessary research.
“In Prospect Park, the volumes of cars that are going on the East Drive are twice as high as they are on the West Drive,” she said. “There’s also the same consideration of those cars on the local streets, a lot of bus traffic, [and] a lot of pedestrians. So, as we now have permanently no cars on the West Drive, that will presumably start to change commuting patterns, and we’ll monitor and we’ll see. But for now we think, as the mayor said, this is a big, big step.”
The Prospect Park Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with the city to preserve and maintain the park, agrees.
“The Prospect Park Alliance supports the mayor’s decision to reduce vehicular traffic in Prospect Park,” said Sue Donoghue, Prospect Park administrator and president of the Prospect Park Alliance. “The Alliance works closely with the community, our agency partners and stakeholders to balance the needs of the diverse users of the Park Drive, and is consistently working to promote a safe environment for the cyclists, runners, walkers and other park visitors who depend on the Park Drive for recreation and outdoor enjoyment.”
The move was also supported by Transportation Alternatives (TA), a New York based advocacy group, which started campaigning nearly 40 years ago toward making Central Park and Prospect Park free from automobile traffic.
“As we celebrate this great milestone, we also look forward to the day when both parks are completely car-free,” said Paul Steely White, TA’s executive director. “We will continue our advocacy work until that happens.”
“The closure of West Drive to car traffic is a tribute to the residents and advocates who worked tirelessly to highlight the challenges to street safety in and around Prospect Park,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “We are one step closer to ensuring that parks are for people, and we can be assured that step will be taken across a car-free street.”