Locals: Keep cars in Prospect Park

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Countering a wave of bike-friendly initiatives, community groups rallied on Thursday against cycling activists’ calls for a car-free Prospect Park — saying that such a scheme would clog their neighborhoods with the hundreds of vehicles that currently use park roads during morning and evening rush hours.

Even though the Department of Transportation says it has no plans to ban cars from the park — which is open on weekdays to northbound traffic from 7 to 9 am and the southbound traffic from 5 to 7 pm — Community Boards 7 and 14, the Windsor Terrace Alliance and Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D–Park Slope) held a preemptive press conference and urged the city to keep cars in Prospect Park.

“We’re concerned about issues of exhaust emissions and noise,” said Community Board 14 Chairman Alvin Berk, who predicted that banning cars in the park would dump 400 additional vehicles each hour onto Parkside Avenue between Park Circle and Ocean Avenue, citing a Department of Transportation study.

“During the morning rush hour, it already backs up,” Berk said. “Closing the park would create additional backups and additional exhaust.”

The community groups — which deem themselves “pro-neighborhood” not “anti-bike” — are fighting against a trend of lengthening car-free hours in the park, which started in the 1970s when the city closed Prospect Park to Sunday drivers.

“There is a conflict between people using the park and traffic in the park — but there is also a conflict between people in our neighborhood and traffic in our neighborho­od,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of Community Board 7.

Laufer’s board chairman, Randy Peers, put that “conflict” into stark relief, using the press conference to slam Transportation Alternatives for pushing pro-bike and anti-car initiatives too hard.

“We abhor the tactics of the bicycle advocacy group,” said Peers. “They tried the same tactics when they tried to shove Residential Parking Permits down our throats. They’re a well-financed advocacy group representing a minority view.”

Last year, the city reduced traffic on the East Drive after Transportation Alternatives and other cycling activists pressured Mayor Bloomberg to apply the same pro-biking and walking policies to Prospect Park that he applied to Central Park in Manhattan.

That decision resulted in increased traffic back-ups that vary depending on the time of the day and the season, according to community groups.

But biking advocates — who are calling for a three-month no-car test period to measure air quality, traffic volume and crash rates — argue that traffic won’t be a problem.

“Whenever Prospect Park has gotten more car-free hours, the same people have said that the sky is falling and here we are a generation later and the sky hasn’t fallen,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell. “But that hasn’t happened yet. Just because you restrict automotive traffic on one artery doesn’t mean that every single car will turn out on adjacent roads — that’s not the way traffic works.”

This most recent flare-up in the war between bikers, walkers and motorists comes after Transportation Alternatives delivered 10,000 signatures to Mayor Bloomberg last month urging him to rid cars from Prospect Park — a decision they say would have little impact on neighboring communities, but would noticeably improve the park for cyclists and walkers.

“When cars enter the park in the morning and the evening — during what should be peak recreation time — people leave the park in droves,” said Norvell.

Biking activists also argue that limiting cars would make the park safer because under the current hours, walkers, cyclists and drivers aren’t expecting to encounter each other along the leafy drive — where Park Slope resident Rachel Fruchter was killed in 1997 after colliding with a van in a section of the loop that was supposed to be car free.

Despite the calls from Transportation Alternatives — who said that 90 percent of cars in the park exceed the speed limit of 30 miles per hour (sometimes reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour) — both the pro-bike crowd and the concerned community groups might be spinning their wheels in vain.

“We extended the hours of the park’s closure to vehicles last year, but we have no plans for a complete closure at this time,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel.

Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

mike from ev says:
Sorry Simon, but study after study says that it would not cause traffic congestion.
Oct. 2, 2008, 9:27 pm
Sally Zampariolo from South Midwood says:
For many who are unable to bike or hike through the Park, a drive through is the only way in which it beauty can be experienced. The roadway through the Park was originally conceived as a connection between Eastern and Ocean Parkways. Banning vehicular traffic in the Park goes against the intention of those who designed it.
Oct. 3, 2008, 9:48 am
Me says:
Why would a car ever be only means that would allow someone to see the park? Please describe this hypothetic person's condition.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:07 am
Me says:
Also - about the "intention" of the park's designers. Back when they created it, automobiles didn't exist. That was the time horse & buggies
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:14 am
Gary from Park Slope says:
The park was designed when the number of vehicles and their speed was entirely different. The proposed closure is only a test! If it turns out to be a problem, it can be discontinued. But I predict it won't be a problem and those that oppose it know that and that is why they are so afraid.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:22 am
Eric from Park Slope says:
I'm sure those of us who support turning over Prospect Park entirely to non-automotive uses would be happy to honor "the intention of those who designed it," and allow horses and horse-drawn carriages to use the Park's roadways. Those designers opened the Park to the public some 30 years before the advent of the automobile.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:42 am
Paul from Crown Heights says:
I think it's is a misrepresentation to say "activists" want the park closed but "community groups" want it open. There are many other community groups - in communities that use the park, not drive through it - that want the park closed to traffic. It is a park and was never intended to carry multi-ton steel motor vehicles commuting to work in Manhattan. It is a tree-lined drive for recreational carriage rides. It is a park and cars have no place in it. There are cars honking and blasting fumes and driving us crazy everywhere in this city even in front of our homes and we want one place where we can get away from them.

If you think closing the drive to cars will create more traffic in the surrounding neighborhood, then you probably don't recall that Washington Square Park in Manhattan once had streets going through it. When the community proposed to close it there were dire predictions of all the traffic that would back up in the surrounding neighborhood and guess what - it didn't happen. The traffic in the neighborhood around the park went down. The streets around Washington Square Park are now some the quietest and safest in all of Greenwich Village.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:50 am
Gene from Flatbush says:
Sally, that's false. The park drives were created for HORSES and CARRIAGES. Not cars.

Please take public transportation (like the rest of us) to the park, get out of the subway, and walk. If you can't walk for some reason, take that cute little trolley that goes around the park drive to enjoy the park's beauty. Driving through a park at 40mph during rush hour is NOT ENJOYING its beauty. That's called taking a convenient shortcut.

By driving through the park, you're ruining it for your Brooklyn neighbors. You make it dirty, dangerous and unpleasant. That's not beautiful.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:58 am
carrie from prospect lefferts gardens says:
It's interesting that the two commenters that support cars in the park live in Midwood and Boro Park -- not exactly the constituency represented in this article. The idea that "community groups" who live near the park want cars driving through it in order to cut down on emissions and noise has got to be a joke, right?

Clearly, these pols are using subterfuge to make their case more appealing. Their real constituency is not the communities around Prospect Park but car owners who use our oasis as their route to work.
Oct. 3, 2008, 2:17 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:

You could not be more wrong. The original designers of Prospect Park absolutely did not intend for the Drives to be used for transportation purposes or as a connection between Eastern and Ocean Parkways. Olmsted and Vaux, the designers of the park, intended the drives to be used for leisurely and rustic horse-drawn carriage rides or "promenading," as they called it in the 1860's -- many years before the first automobile was introduced to New York City. Over in Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux built the transverse, crosstown roads for transportation purposes. You'll note that those transportation-oriented roads are sunken below grade. They are not really a part of the park. O & V would be absolutely appalled that we've filled their parks with traffic. The parks were meant to be an antidote to the hustle and bustle and clamor of the city.
Oct. 3, 2008, 5:25 pm
Bob from Park Slope says:
I'd ban them. It would be different if the police who patrol the park actually paid attention and ticketed people who barrel through there like it's a freeway.

The police presence in the park is a joke. They hide during those commuting hours, I've never seen a ticket written in YEARS of riding in there, and have been clipped a few times on my bike by aggressive motorists. Meanwhile, the cops are napping in their cars.

Ban cars from the park, or make the police do their jobs. Or both.
Oct. 3, 2008, 6:53 pm
Danielle from Bushwick says:
The same issue arose regarding Washington Square Park, which did have, at one point, traffic flowing through it. Robert Moses even proposed extending 5th Ave through it to "alleviate" traffic congestion surrounding the area. When the issue was fought, tooth and nail, against the proposal and instead countered, in 1934, with a car-free proposal, which, obviously and thankfully passed, traffic actually lightened around the park as motorists found alternate routes. Look, also, at Central Park. Traffic congestion is no different when traffic restrictions are imposed. It's absurd to deny history strictly because one cannot seem to remove one's self from the steering wheel.
Oct. 11, 2008, 11:53 am
Deane from Park Slope says:
Cars in the park might not be a problem if they abided by the 25 mph speed limit, but most go much faster than that, creating a dangerous situation. If the speed limit were enforced, I bet the drivers wouldn't think of the park as a short cut.
Oct. 29, 2008, 2:38 pm
Lazar says:
Keep cars out of the park.

In fact, it wouldn't bother me a whole lot if cars were kept out of the 5 boros altogether.
Nov. 10, 2008, 5:07 pm
Elliot from Stuy Town says:
I lived in Windsor Terrace for 6 years, 2002-2008. Although I'm now 68 years old, I still commute to work daily.

When I used Prospect Park bike path after 9am, I did NOT see more congestion on the surrounding streets.

What I DID see was cops allowing cars to double park on Park Slope side streets to avoid tickets for alternate side of the street violations -- as if double parking is not a violation AND a creator of congestion because it reduces traffic flow and slows up emergency vehicles on those very side streets.

Too many car driving New Yorkers are addicted to their motor vehicles. They remind me of those smokers who also "predicted" that making restaurants and bars smoke-free would close them down. They were proven wrong just as car addicts will be proven wrong about "congestion" caused by car-free park hours.

Banning cars from Prospect Park will send some drivers to mass transit, biking, walking, and car pooling. It will REDUCE traffic, not increase it.
July 27, 2010, 8:28 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: