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Central Park Car Ban Should Be Extended Farther South, Pols Say

By Emily Frost | June 18, 2015 3:19pm
 Locals and elected officials want the entire park to go car-free.
Car-Free Central Park
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UPPER WEST SIDE — While many greeted news that Central Park will become permanently car-free above 72nd Street with great excitement, others said they were "disappointed" that the no-traffic zone didn't extend farther south. 

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a press conference Thursday that the volume of cars in the southern portion was currently too high to ban them there.

The Mayor's announcement Thursday, which included closing part of Prospect Park to cars as well, was widely applauded. 

But it was also a letdown for advocates of an entirely car-free park.

Upper West Side resident Ken Coughlin said that while he welcomed the move, he didn't understand why the whole park wasn't included, given the Mayor's Vision Zero goals. 

"[K]eeping the park open to traffic makes it less safe and only adds to the volume of cars on our streets," he said.

Furthermore, support for making the whole park car-free has been "overwhelming" among residents and local community boards, he said.

Upper West Sider John Simpson called the ban "a very good first step," but long overdue and one that doesn't go far enough.

"It does not make sense to have the inevitable heavy traffic that comes with peak-hour motor vehicle use in a bucolic space like Central Park," he said. 

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal also said she was "disappointed" the ban didn't include the park's southern loop.

"Central Park is a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park should be 100 percent car-free," she told DNAinfo New York. 

Rosenthal introduced a bill this past fall calling for both a ban on cars during the summer and a study by the Department of Transportation showing the impact on local traffic. 

The bill has not yet been heard by the Council's Parks Committee, noted Councilman Mark Levine, a co-sponsor.

Levine characterized the mayor's decision as "cause for celebration," but said that didn't mean he'd stop advocating for an entirely car-free park. 

The southern section in particular needs a prohibition on cars, he said. 

"The southern loop is one of the heaviest in terms of pedestrian and bike and car traffic," Levin said, adding that it's busiest with joggers, walkers and cyclists in the morning, when cars currently have access.

Levin said he'd push for passage of the bill in time for next summer. 

"DOT says closing [the southern loop] would disrupt local street traffic too much. I haven’t seen any analysis on that," Levine said, noting that's why the bill calls for a study to be made public.

DOT Commissioner Trottenberg explained Thursday at a press conference that the department will "continue to monitor and see how the southern part works" before banning cars there. 

The DOT did not immediately return a request for comment regarding when its review of the park's southern portion would occur and be publicly released.

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