With an eye toward improving the experience of park visitors, it is about to get harder to drive through Central Park and Prospect Park. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans Thursday to further restrict car traffic in both green spaces. The change has some drivers fuming and other New Yorkers celebrating. NY1's Grace Rauh filed this report.
Central Park and Prospect Park are full of joggers, bikers, strollers and—some of the time—cars. Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to change that, at least a little.
"Today we are taking a big step to returning our parks to the people," de Blasio said.
The mayor says that starting June 29, all roads in Central Park north of 72nd Street will be car-free. The West Drive is open to cars weekday mornings. Center Drive allows cars during weekdays. Beginning July 6, meanwhile, Prospect Park's West Drive will no longer allow cars. The East Drive will be open to traffic from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays.
In Prospect Park, where the mayor made the announcement, the founder of the Park Slope Parents organization, Susan Fox, applauded the mayor, but she and others want the city to go further.
"I think right now it's baby steps and we really need to praise the local officials but keep the pressure on them so they continue to see this as a problem," Fox says.
Some drivers in the neighborhood, though, are not pleased by the mayor's plan, even those who use the park as pedestrians.
"That's definitely going to cause a lot of traffic around here. I don't know if that's a smart move by the mayor," one man says.
"Maybe he should talk about the bikes that are riding through the parks and don't stop at the lights and that are more of a hazard," says one woman.
The mayor, meanwhile, is defending his proposal to replace horse-drawn carriages in Central Park with electric antique replica vehicles—even as he moves to restrict regular cars. He says they are two very different issues.
"What we aspire to do is to create a small, modest industry with the replica electric cars or some other good alternative," the mayor says.
The mayor says he expects the changes to have only a minimal impact on traffic on the surrounding streets.