History of the Campaign for Car-free Parks

1857:  Central Park opens.

1868:  Prospect Park opens.  

1899:  The first automobiles are allowed on Central Park’s loop drive.

1906:  The "loud and odiferous" nature of autos in the Park is acknowledged by the New York Times.

1930s:  Parks Commissioner Robert Moses has Prospect Park's loop drive widened and straightened, turning it into a high-speed shortcut for motorists.

1966:    Mayor John Lindsay, an avid cyclist, bans automobiles from Central Park’s loop drive from 6 am to 6 pm on weekends, creating the first large-scale social bicycling and walking environment in New York City.

1967:  Car-free weekends are expanded to Prospect Park.

1975:  Car-free weekend hours are expanded to include weekdays.

1979:  Transportation Alternatives convenes a “Blue Ribbon Panel”  which recommends car-free periods to improve Central Park.  The City agrees to the recommendations and adds a bicycle and pedestrian lane to the loop drive.

1990:  An “Earth Week” celebration hosted by T.A. culminates in a car-free day during which a majority of Manhattan is closed to cars, including Central Park.

1991: Transportation Alternatives hosts hundreds of protesters on a series of marches on the Prospect Park loop drive.

1992: T.A. helps 20,000 New Yorkers send signed postcards to Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden asking a Car-Free Prospect Park.

1997: Bicyclist and biochemist Rachael Fruchter is killed by a car in Prospect Park.

1998: A Transportation Alternatives report finds 95 percent of drivers in Prospect Park are speeding, 50 percent swerved into the recreational lane and one ran a red light every minute. At a standing-room-only town hall meeting, 96 percent of speakers testify in favor of car-free Prospect Park.

1999: At a raucous rally, hundreds of activists “celebrate” one hundred years of automobiles in Central Park. Three entrances to Central Park are closed to car traffic and car-free “summer” hours are extended to ten months a year.

2002: T.A. activists collect 10,000 signatures in support of a car-free Prospect Park. All four City Council members agree to support a three-month trial closure.

2003:  A Transportation Alternatives study finds that 92 percent of drivers in Prospect Park are speeding, with 25 percent traveling 10 mph or more over the speed limit. City Hall agrees to make Prospect Park car-free year round, except during weekday rush hours.

2004: The speed limit is reduced to 25 mph on the Central Park loop driver and five entrances are closed to car traffic.

2005: T.A. activists collect 100,000 signatures in support of a car-free Central Park.

2006: A T.A. study of pedestrian patterns in Prospect Park find that 80 percent would use the park more often if the park was car-free.The City reduces the hours that cars can use Prospect Park. The Central Park east drive is closed in the mornings, the west drive is closed in the afternoons

2007:  Car-free hours on the west drive of Central Park are extended from 7 am to 8 am.

2008: Transportation Alternatives’ Prospect Park Youth Advocates collect more than 10,000 postcards asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a car-free Prospect Park. Hundreds of Brooklyn high school students march over the Brooklyn Bridge to deliver their message to City Hall.

2009: The City closes multiple entrance to Prospect Park to car traffic.

2012: Car traffic is reduced to one lane in Prospect and Central Park, giving drivers, people walking and people on bikes each one lane.

2015: Legislation for a trial car-free period in Central and Prospect Park is introduced in the City Council.

June 18, 2015: Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that Central Park Drives north of 72nd Street and Prospect Park's West Drive will be permanently car-free.