Central Park to ban cars
The world’s most famous green space is about to get a lot greener. All private vehicles will be banned from Central Park starting on June 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials announced Friday. The measure eliminates traffic in the last area of the park where cars had been allowed — the “scenic loops” south of 72nd Street, where they were restricted to limited weekday hours. The car ban does not affect emergency vehicles or the four east-west transverses, which were built into the park’s original design as fully separated, below-grade roadways for through-traffic.
“Our parks are for people, not cars,” de Blasio told reporters. “For more than a century, cars have turned parts of the world’s most iconic park into a highway,” he said. “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.”
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that efforts to remove cars from Central Park began five decades ago, when traffic hours were first reduced. In 2015, de Blasio closed all the park drives north of 72nd Street to vehicle traffic. Currently, northbound car traffic is permitted on Center Drive from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and southbound traffic is permitted on West Drive, Terrace Drive and Center Drive from 8 to 10 a.m. on weekdays.
The news was greeted Friday by pedestrian cheers — and driver jeers.
“Oh, I’m pretty happy about it,” pedi-cab driver S.K. Ali, 47, said as he pedaled past cars rushing by on Center Drive. “We don’t like them. They scare the kids, they hit bikes, they make a lot of noise. Without the cars I’ll probably do more business, and it’ll be safer all around.” But drivers, especially those in taxis and Ubers, were bummed to be losing a favorite shortcut. “Oh, great,” said one Uber driver as he paused at a light on Center Drive.
His passenger, a middle-aged man in a suit, stuck his head out the window to complain. “This route is the best-kept secret in New York,” the passenger griped. “Was that de Blasio? He’s the worst.” New York Road Runners CEO Michael Capirasco, whose organization runs the New York City Marathon, noted that the park was designed in 1858, before cars. “As supporters of a healthy lifestyle, we are so excited that this amazing and beautiful park will be enhanced by being traffic-free,” he said.
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said, “Mayor de Blasio has done what 20 mayors before him could not do. Get cars out of Central Park.”
The mayor in January banned cars from the scenic drives in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.