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Central Park Will Be Permanently Car-Free Above 72nd Street, Mayor Says

By Emily Frost | June 18, 2015 11:28am
 The park will become permanently car-free as of June 29, the Mayor said Thursday.
Central Park to Go Car-Free Above 72nd Street
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CENTRAL PARK — The northern section of Central Park above 72nd Street will be permanently closed to cars beginning later this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The move follows years of calls from Upper West Side politicians and residents to close the green space to traffic.

The park's transverse roads will remain open to cars, and emergency and park vehicles will have access to the roads along the upper loop, the mayor's office said.

Additionally, the Fifth Avenue bus lane will extend north to 110th Street from 7 to 11 a.m. on weekdays to add a transportation option for people living near the park on the East Side. 

The Department of Transportation studied the effect of restricting cars and found that it had no impact on travel times or congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods. Over the past two summers, the DOT restricted cars above 72nd Street and studied the effects, according to a release. 

The mayor also announced Thursday that Prospect Park's West Drive would be closed to cars.

"Making the loop drives in Central and Prospect Parks permanently car-free for the first time in more than a century will make these great spaces safer, healthier and more accessible to the millions who flock to them,” de Blasio said in a statement.

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and Councilman Mark Levine, who is chairman of the Council's Parks Committee, have pushed for the entirety of Central Park to be car-free. They introduced a bill last year calling for the park to be car-free this summer, as well as for a study to be published this winter on the impact on traffic. 

Community Board 7 has also supported a car-free Central Park, passing a resolution both last year and in 2011 calling for a car-free park. 

In 2011 and 2013, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, then an Upper West Side City Councilwoman, called for both Central and Prospect Parks to go entirely car-free, but the legislation didn't have enough support to move forward.  

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

Residents and elected officials renewed their calls for a car-free park this past fall after a mother was killed by a cyclist while crossing West Drive and an elderly man was killed by a cyclist while jogging on the East Drive in mid-August.

Though neither death involved a car, residents said the incidents were proof that Central Park was too congested with walkers, runners and cyclists to safely make room for cars.