Spring 2004, p.18

Car-Free Central ParkSupport for Car-Free Central Park Swells: Petition Drive Collects 63,000 Signatures!

The last time the City of New York reduced the intrusive presence of cars in Central Park was in 1992, when it extended weekday car-free hours from four to ten months of the year.

Yet, during the last twelve years, support for more car-free hours and space in the park has continued to grow. Currently, all of the city councilmembers representing areas surrounding the park support an extension of car-free hours. All of the cityís major civic and environmental groups and 63,000 park users who have signed T.A.ís petition support a completely car-free park.

Given this strong support, it would seem logical for the mayor to give the order to make the park car-free, or at least institute a three month car-free trial period. But powerful forces oppose increases in car-free hours. Because of this resistance, T.A. seeks a step by step reduction of the times and places that motorists can enter the park. For the last three years, T.A. has sought:

  • An increase in the weekday car-free hours to include overnight and early morning times. Weekday car-free hours would be extended to include the period of 10 pm to 8 am the following morning.
  • Reclamation as parkland of little used motor vehicle entrances including West 77th Street, West 85th Street, West 90th Street, East 90th Street and East 102nd Street.

These changes would add valuable morning car-free hours for busy park users, rationalize and simplify traffic in the park and show park neighbors that reclaiming park space and hours has no adverse impact on the volume of motor vehicle traffic around the park.

There is now an intriguing hint that the Central Park Conservancy is seriously considering some of the changes car-free park supporters have been seeking.

"... I am pleased to let you know that a new study of traffic flows in Central Park has been commissioned to ascertain the feasibility of extending weekday car-free hours and of decreasing car usage by eliminating additional vehicular entrances to the Park. No specific entrances have been determined at this point, but I will be glad to share your concerns with the people involved with this study."

The Conservancy operates and maintains the park under contract with the city and has a powerful board of directors. If the Conservancy pushes for more car-free space and time, change could take place quickly.

For the full list of Car-Free Central Park Supporters see www.transalt.org/campaigns/cpark/supporters.html  

Car-Free Central Park Hours
Weekends: 7 pm Friday until 6 am Monday. All year.
Weekdays: 10 am to
3 pm and 7 pm to 10 pm between January 1st and Thanksgiving.

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