Transportation Alternatives is fighting hard for a car-free summer--Memorial Day to Labor Day--in Prospect Park.
On July 17, more than 600 car-free Prospect Park supporters showed up for T.A.'s enormous town hall meeting at the sweltering Union Temple at Grand Army Plaza. Along with the cheering throngs were City Councilmembers Yvette Clarke, James Davis, Bill DeBlasio, Angel Rodriguez and David Yassky and State Senator Carl Andrews. All of the electeds gave rousing speeches in support of a three month car-free trial period. Additionally, three former DOT commissioners, Lee Sander, Lou Riccio and Sam Schwartz, went one step further and supplied statements endorsing a completely car-free Prospect Park. The people power carried over to a July 30th car-free rally in Prospect Park that drew 120 cheering people holding placards.
The political power generated by T.A.'s Brooklyn Committee led to a summit meeting between the City Councilmembers supporting a three month trial closing, DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall and opponents of a trial closing, including Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilmembers Nelson and Felder.
T.A. carefully planned the Union Temple meeting around Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's schedule and confirmed the engagement repeatedly during numerous phone calls with his staff. But Marty--the day's featured keynote speaker--decided at the last minute not to attend. Markowitz built his reputation as a populist by attending children's birthday parties, little league games and block parties. In subsequent meetings, Markowitz has voiced vociferous opposition to a car-free park. (He also adamantly opposes tolls on East River Bridges.)
The good news for supporters of a car-free summer is that three former DOT Commissioners say that it is easily doable. Also, the 78th Precinct says it is easier to police the park when it is closed to cars. The bad news is that the DOT is convinced that a car-free summer would require a $250,000 study during which it would collect extensive before, during and after traffic counts. This is all academic anyway, since neither the DOT nor the City Council say that they are able to find the money for such a study. Plus, the DOT reports that its traffic planning staff has been diminished by retirement buy-outs and does not have the capability of managing a Prospect Park study.
Fortunately, bolstered by constituent support--thank you T.A. Brooklyn Committee, Councilmembers Yassky and DeBlasio are committed to championing a "Car-Free Summer." As we go to press, the Prospect Park City Council Delegation is putting the finishing touches on a letter to DOT Commissioner Weinshall calling for a car-free trial, with or without a traffic study.
Meanwhile, the Prospect Park Community Committee ("Comm Comm") has voted to endorse year-round weekday car-free hours. Currently, the weekday hours (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) extend from January to mid-November. The Comm Comm includes representatives from park athletic clubs, neighborhood organizations and other park user groups.