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Car quash! Vehicles banned from half of Prospect Park

Let my parks free: Mayor DeBlasio declares Prospect Park’s West Drive car free during certain hours between Grand Army Plaza and Park Circle at a press conference on June 18.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Baby you can’t drive your car.

The city is putting the brakes on vehicles in Brooklyn’s Backyard, announcing Thursday that it is banning automobiles from Prospect Park’s West Drive as of next month.

Downtown-bound motorists will still be able drive through the park’s East Drive between 7 and 9 am on weekdays, but its Prospect-Park-side counterpart, which is currently open to Coney-Island-bound traffic between from 5 to 7 pm on weekdays, will soon be a car-free zone. As of July 6, Brooklyn’s cyclists and pedestrians will be able to cruise the West Drive asphalt at any hour of the day, free from the fear that they will end up as road-kill, said Mayor DeBlasio.

“Today, we’re taking a big step to returning our parks to the people,” said the mayor, who has been advocating for fewer cars in the park since his days as a city councilman. “We’re creating safe zones for kids to play in, for bikers, for joggers, for everyone to know that they will be safer and they can enjoy the park in peace.”

Transit honchos say they’re confident the closure will not result in rush-hour traffic jams in surrounding neighborhoods — about 200 cars an hour travel through West Drive when it is open, which nearby streets should be able to absorb with minimal headaches, said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg,

DeBlasio announced the change in conjunction with a similar plan for Manhattan’s Central Park, a large swathe of greenery in the middle of the island.

Community activists have for years demanded the city ban traffic from New York’s premier parklands. Transit advocates welcomed today’s news, but said they won’t stop fighting until both parks are 100-percent car-free.

“As we celebrate this great milestone today, we also look forward to the day when both parks are completely car-free, and we will continue our advocacy work until that happens,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of anti-car group Transportation Alternatives.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz

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