March/April 1999, p.21

Volunteer of the Month: Judy Ross

Name: Judy Ross Age: 34
Occupation: Database Administrator
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
T.A. Member Since: 1997
Volunteer Activity: Auto-Free Central Park campaign
Why did you join T.A.? I eased into the biking community slowly, starting with a Time's Up Moonlight Ride through Central Park about four years ago. Then I joined the Five Borough Bike Club to go on longer trips. After I started commuting to work on my bike, I recognized the need to be a part of an organization like T.A.
How about the Central Park Campaign? The Auto-Free Central Park Campaign is a personal mission for me. Between running and walking my dogs, I average two or three hours a day in the park. I moved to New York City six years ago, and I've been incredibly frustrated over how we are squandering our beautiful park by turning it into a highway 16 hours a day, five days a week. Last May, I found out T.A. was resurrecting their campaign against cars in the park and signed up.
What's the committee's mission? Our ultimate goal is to eliminate cars from the Central Park loop drive (except for emergency, police, and handicapped vehicles and other special cases). Our short-term goals are increased car-free hours, closing more park entrances and a trial closing of the park to cars during the summer.
Latest news? We've been invited to the Manhattan Borough Board meeting with Borough President C. Virginia Fields, the City Council and community board members. We're also trying to build a coalition of support from park users, bicycle and skating clubs, running groups, bird watchers, and children's safety organizations.
Last year, campaign volunteers collected signatures.
What was the general reaction? It was great. The strong support was invigorating. People would line up to sign postcards - sometimes we felt like Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up at the candy factory! Runners would try to run in place while signing their names. We got a lot of sweaty signatures. Young kids' faces would really light up when I'd ask them if they wanted to sign a card also. It was wonderful watching parents wait patiently while their children carefully signed their name to a postcard to the mayor.
Even with all the letters and postcards isn't it tough to sway politicians? Most politicians we've talked to so far have been neutral - not vehemently against making Central Park car-free, but not willing to endorse the idea either. (We are presenting postcards to Borough President Fields at the end of February so...stay tuned.)
How did cars come to be allowed on the park drives? The 100th anniversary of the day cars first invaded Central Park is coming up in November. [T.A. Board Member] Ken Coughlin wrote a terrific essay, which was published in the NY Times in 1994, about the day cars were first allowed to drive on the loop road. It's on the T.A. website at www.transalt.org/campaigns/cpark/times.html.
Cajole others to join the crusade: Please, please, please! Auto-Free Central Park is a great campaign to get involved with. The hotline to help out is 212-787-PARK. Once we make the park car-free it'll really make a difference in the quality of life for Manhattanites. It'll be a terrific legacy to leave your children and grandchildren.