The fight for a ban on cars in Central Park has been a back and forth debate between Manhattan Community Boards and the Department of Transportation, but it’s looking like arguments for a trial ban have fallen on deaf ears. For months now, half a dozen Community Boards surrounding Central Park have followed Councilwoman Gail Brewer’s lead and pushed for a trial run of a car-free Central Park loop to happen this summer. But on Friday, Streetsblog got word from the DOT that they have no plans to implement a test ban.
The campaign for a car free Central Park began back in March when Councilwoman Brewer proposed a bill that would allow for a temporary ban of cars from the loops in both Central Park and Prospect Park. The proposal immediately gained support by Manhattan’s Community Board 7, and has since garner unanimous support from every board surrounding Central Park: boards 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 all support the ban.
But for the second time, the city has squashed any hope of the ban actually happening. The proposal called for a test ban beginning the weekend of July 4th and continuing through Labor Day. Considering that the Fourth of July weekend has come and gone and the DOT still has no plans for a trial ban, a car free Central Park is looking highly unlikely.
Given DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn’s pro-bike and pedestrian agenda, it’s hard to understand why the idea of a car-free Central Park has not gained support from city officials. When you add to that the fact that six Manhattan Community Boards have come out in full support of the plan, it’s really hard to imagine why Mayor Bloomberg and the DOT are not in favor of the ban. What constituency could they possibly be playing to?
A member of Community Board 7, Ken Coughlin, expressed similar feelings to Streetsblog:
DOT’s response is disappointing and puzzling. The request for a trial closing is coming from the community – all the communities surrounding the park. In the past, DOT has been incredibly responsive to community needs and opinions. Moreover, the idea of a car-free trial is consistent with DOT’s other initiatives to make our streets safer and more livable.
But suddenly, all bets are off when it comes to even a short-term closing of Central Park to traffic. The communities around the park, their elected representatives, and the more than 100,000 who have signed the petition calling for a car-free park deserve better than this brush-off.