Summer 2002, p.2

Provocateur: "The automobile is ugly, noisy and foul-smelling"

New Yorkers advocating for a car-free Central Park in 1992.Frederick Law Olmstead, Co-Designer of Central and Prospect Parks
"Crowded thoroughfares have nothing in common with the park proper, but everything at variance with those agreeable sentiments which we should wish the park to inspire."


Egbert L. Viele, Chief Engineer of Central and Prospect Parks, 1861
"The primary objective of the park is as a rural resort where the people of all classes, escaping from the glare, and glitter, and turmoil of the city might find relief for the mind, and physical recreation."


Edward Abbey, Naturalist
"We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our parks with the same deference."


Jane Jacobs, Famous Urbanist
"I enthusiastically endorse the campaign to close Central Park's loop drive to regular automobile traffic. We had the same sort of fight in Washington Square Park in the late 1950s and in my neighborhood here in Toronto a couple of years ago: same prediction of traffic chaos, same result of no chaos, diminished traffic counts and no counts increased elsewhere in consequence. "


James Howard Kunstler, Famous Urbanist
"Central Park was intended to be a landscape of tranquility set apart from the dynamism of the great city around it. Introducing motor cars to its original carriage drives, and then altering the road geometries to suit them, was one of the great blunders of civic design in the 20th century."


Jane Holtz Kay, Architecture and Planning Critic for The Nation
"In this period of evolving environmental consciousness, in an era in which cities become more and more attractive as recreation centers, and an epoch when sprawl and global warming require us to enhance our greenery and livability, it is worse than myopic of city officials to allow New York's great public space to become a brutalized race track."


Witold Rybczynski, Professor of Urbanism
"Olmstead and Vaux went to great lengths to ensure that commercial traffic could cross the park with the least visual impact, by sinking the four transverse roads. Today, the presence of cars on what were intended to be leisurely carriage drives within the park seriously compromises their vision of a place to escape the bustle of the city. Cars are simply too large, too noisy, and too fast."


City of New York Parks and Recreation Rules and Regulations, 1996
"Parks are special places where people can enjoy a sense of peace and freedom difficult to find elsewhere in the city. It is the purpose of these updated Park Rules to preserve that right for everyone. Rules were first established for New York parks in 1850. Since then the city has changed in many ways, making the preservation and protection of our vital green spaces more important than ever."


NYC Parks Department, A Guide for Sharing the Drive in Central Park, 1998
"Skating in the recreation lane is unsafe when there are cars in the Park. Therefore, skating is not recommended. Young children should not use the Drive when there are cars."


Central Park Conservancy, Central Park 2000 Master Plan, 1995
"[T]he Drive is the major destination in the Park for recreational use. When the Drive is closed to automobile traffic, recreational use mushrooms, proving that there is a huge demand for space to bike, rollerblade and run The carrying capacity of the Drive is tested each rush hour when joggers, cyclists and pedestrian commuters vie with cars for space."


Letter to the Editor of The New York Times, 1906
"... the automobiles [in Central Park] are ugly, noisy and foul-smelling ... and have no right to interfere with the health and comfort of the public. The Board of Health say they have no power; the park officials, while they regret the condition, have no power to change it. Where can one look for a remedy?"


Note: "Provocateur" is intended to provoke thought and does not reflect the official position of T.A.

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