Central Park is going car-free

Posted On Fri, April 20, 2018 By

Posted On Fri, April 20, 2018 By In Transportation

Photo via Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr

Last night Mayor de Blasio teased us by tweeting, “We’re making a BIG announcement tomorrow on the future of Central Park. Stay tuned.” This morning he announced, “Central Park goes car-free in June. 24/7, 365 days a year — because parks are for people, not cars.” That is BIG news. After banning cars north of 72nd Street three years ago, the city will now prohibit them south of 72nd.

According to the mayor’s press release, “Beginning on June 27, 2018, the day after the conclusion of public school classes and the first day outdoor pools are open across the city, the last sections of the park’s loop drives that remain open to cars will be permanently closed to them, returning the park to its original use as an urban refuge and recreation space. More than 42 million visitors flock to Central Park each year. Returning the park’s loop road to walkers, joggers and cyclists will reduce air pollution in the park and improve safety. It also signals New York City’s commitment to prioritizing people over cars in its premier public spaces.”

The current Central Park traffic rules are that Central Park Drives north of 72nd Street are car-free, but the four transverse roads that run crosstown at 66th, 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets remain open to motor vehicles. Drives south of 72nd Street are open to vehicular traffic only during certain hours and only on weekdays: West Drive (from 72nd Street south to Central Park South & 7th Avenue) High Occupancy Vehicles only: 8:00 am – 10:00 am; Center Drive/East Drive (from the 6th Avenue entrance on Central Park South to the East 72nd Street & 5th Avenue exit): 7:00 am – 7:00 pm; Terrace Drive (72nd Street Cross) Drive (from 72nd Street/Fifth Avenue to West Drive South): 8:00 am – 10:00 am.

As of June, that will all change. The only car traffic that will remain in effect is the four Central Park transverse roads that run crosstown at 66th, 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets are open to motor vehicles. According to reports, cars will still be able to cross the park on those big streets.

After a successful pilot program last January, the city also made Prospect Park car-free. Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Our parks are for people, not cars. For more than a century, cars have turned parts of the world’s most iconic park into a highway. Today we take it back. We are prioritizing the safety and the health of the millions of parents, children and visitors who flock to Central Park.”

In addition to this announcement, there is a lot of other work going on in Central Park. On February 26th, Belvedere Castle was closed to the public for its restoration until 2019. The Central Park Conservancy also reported that it is in the middle of it’s “Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park,” a 10-year campaign that started in 2016 to restore and preserve Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s historic vision for the extraordinary landscape of the Park.” Exciting transformations are ahead for our green urban oasis.

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