The Bloomberg Administration has shifted gears, and decided to expand car-free hours in Prospect Park.
One week after anti-car activists blasted the mayor for increasing car-free hours in Central Park, yet maintaining the existing biker-friendly hours in Prospect Park, the city announced that the East Drive would now be entirely closed to traffic on weekdays from 5–7 pm.
The change will “create new opportunities for children and families to enjoy the Prospect Park drive on weekday afternoons,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Our goal is to let the park be a park as much of the time as possible.”
Naturally, bicycling advocates hailed the move — but just as predictably said it did not go far enough.
“For an extra two hours each weekday, Brooklynites will breathe easier as they walk, job, bicycle and recreate in Prospect Park,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
But Steely White was quick to demand more, pointing out that his group is still calling for the entire loop in Prospect Park to be rendered car-free. A 2006 study by the group found that four out of five park users would use the park more often if they did not have to compete with autos. (The fifth person may be a dentist.)
The mayoral U-turn took Borough President Markowitz by surprise. Last week, he told the New York Daily News that expanding car-free hours in Prospect Park would push more traffic onto surrounding roads.
“Further limiting hours [to cars] would result in unacceptable traffic backup,” he said then.
Markowitz did not return an e-mail seeking comment for this story.
The new car-free hours will kick in on Aug. 27.