DOT: “No Plans at This Time” for Car-Free Central Park Trial

Every community board surrounding Central Park has supported taking cars off the park loop for a summertime trial, but DOT has no plans to give kids and families more car-free time to bike. Photo: Asterix611 via Flickr.

The July 4 weekend is upon us and with it, the height of summer. If Manhattan’s community boards had their way, summertime would mean a trial closure of Central Park’s loop drive to cars.

A resolution to try out such a closure from “the summer months through Labor Day” earned the support of Community Boards 5, 7, 8, 9, and 11. Unanimous committee votes from CBs 1 and 10 showed those boards’ support. Every board surrounding the park has taken a stand in support of such a trial.

Given that summer is now in full swing, we checked in with the Department of Transportation to see whether they were going to listen to these communities and try taking cars off of the loop for the summer.

“There are no plans at this time,” was all that a DOT spokesperson would say. That’s not a hard “no,” but at this point in the summer, it’s awfully close.

Ken Coughlin, a member of Community Board 7 and a leading advocate for a car-free Central Park had this to say about DOT’s stance:

DOT’s response is disappointing and puzzling. The request for a trial closing is coming from the community – all the communities surrounding the park. In the past, DOT has been incredibly responsive to community needs and opinions. Moreover, the idea of a car-free trial is consistent with DOT’s other initiatives to make our streets safer and more livable.

But suddenly, all bets are off when it comes to even a short-term closing of Central Park to traffic. The communities around the park, their elected representatives, and the more than 100,000 who have signed the petition calling for a car-free park deserve better than this brush-off.

Added Mel Wymore, the chair of CB 7:

The proposed trial closure is consistent with the Mayor’s and DOT’s clear commitment to pedestrian safety, car-free zones, and data-driven street design. What better place to apply these principles than in Central Park, the city’s most frequented sanctuary? Given broad consensus among multiple communities, it’s a win-win-win proposition.

One thing we’d add to their remarks. A car-free trial might be consonant with the city’s agenda and extremely popular with the communities surrounding the park, but there’s one important Central Park neighbor who isn’t on board. Upper East Sider Michael Bloomberg doesn’t agree with his community board on this one, having consistently opposed a car-free park, even for a trial period.