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Central Park Should Be Car-Free During Summer, Councilmembers Say

By Emily Frost | October 9, 2014 6:41pm
 The park is so full of pedestrians and bikers vying for space that having cars within the park makes no sense, said City Councilmembers Rosenthal and Levine. 
Car-Free Central Park This Summer
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Central Park could become car-free this summer under a new bill that's been introduced by Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine

"There’s just no reason to have them there," Rosenthal said of cars in the park.

Though Rosenthal has wanted to introduce the legislation for some time, the recent death of Jill Tarlov, the pedestrian who was fatally hit by a cyclist along West Drive in the park, highlighted the need for change, she said. 

The park is "packed with cars, cyclists, and runners all vying for limited space; removing cars from the loop will dramatically reduce the risk of dangerous collisions," the councilmembers said in a joint statement. 

Currently, the city allows cars access to West Drive and Terrace Drive between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., to East Drive between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and to Center Drive between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer originally introduced similar legislation in 2011 calling for Central Park and Prospect Park to be car-free year-round. She re-introduced the legislation at the end of 2013, but the bill didn't have enough support from the Council or mayor to pass, Brewer said. 

Rosenthal and Levine's legislation is very similar to Brewer's, though it applies only to Central Park and would only restrict cars between June 24 and Sept. 25, 2015. Cars would still be able to use the transverse roads under the proposed measure.

Two councilmembers whose districts border Central Park, Dan Garodnick and Melissa Mark-Viverito, did not respond to request for comment on whether they would support to the legislation. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose district also borders the park, said he's still considering the measure. 

Like Brewer's bill, the new proposal also calls for a study by Parks Department on the effects of the restriction on traffic volumes on nearby roads, pedestrian traffic flow, and the impact on the environment. 

The new legislation requests that a report on the study be submitted to the mayor's office and posted on the Council's website by Dec. 31, 2015. 

The study "will be a meaningful step to a permanently car-free Central Park," the councilmembers noted in their statement. 

The legislation was introduced this week and was referred to the Council's Transportation Committee for discussion and review. From there it would have to head before the full Council for a vote. The next Transportation Committee meeting has not yet been scheduled.