Former NYC Parks Commissioner
I don't believe in
creating roadblocks to cars
by John Henry
As parks commissioner for 15
years, Henry Stern opposed making Central and Prospect Parks totally car free.
Today, he still opposes the idea.
"No parks commissioner
has wanted to totally ban cars, because they realize it's totally
irresponsible," says Stern. Eliminating cars from Central Park in
particular would "flood surrounding areas with cars. How many more cars
can you fit on Fifth Avenue, Central Park West and Columbus?"
Stern, who now heads New York
Civic, Inc., a non-profit issues-advocacy organization, adds that "the
closer people get to responsibility the better they understand the problem of
balancing of interests."
He notes that as parks
commissioner he approved the expansion of car-free hours in Prospect Park
three years ago despite the opposition of a Brooklyn community board that
insisted that the move would increase traffic in adjacent streets.
Three out of every four
Manhattan households do not own cars and it is possible that a substantial
portion of drivers using Central Park live in other boroughs or outside the
city. Should not those considerations tip the scale in favor of banning autos
from the park?
Stern says no. "The park
wasn't built for Manhattan residents. It's for the general public."
Asked if he thinks public
policy should be tailored to make driving in Manhattan a less attractive
option, Stern says, "I don't believe in creating roadblocks to cars.
There's this Luddite view that the car is evil--right up there with beer, wine,
fur and meat. But I don't mean to deride anyone. People who want cars out of
the parks aren't wackos."