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Posts from the "Car-Free Streets" Category

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What’s the Status of Car-Free Central Park and Prospect Park in 2014?

Last year, the city announced that much of Central Park’s loop drives would go car-free all summer long. With temperatures warming, the park is again filling with people walking, jogging, and biking — all sharing space with car commuters looking for a rush-hour shortcut. Will it happen again — or expand — this year? Negotiations are underway to bring a car-free summer back to Central Park, and meanwhile it’s still an open question whether Prospect Park users will get similar summer traffic relief for the first time.

A pleasant, car-free Central Park. Photo: gigi_nyc/Flickr

Central Park could be pleasant and car-free all the time. Photo: gigi_nyc/Flickr

The movement for car-free parks has gained momentum and major political support after years of advocacy, yielding design changes to park roads and steady expansions of car-free hours in two of the city’s busiest parks.

The push for a car-free Central Park has been complicated of late by a de Blasio administration pledge to ban horse carriages and replace them with old-timey electric cars in the park. Last week, the Central Park Conservancy came out against the electric cars, saying they would “increase congestion” and “make the park less safe.” Cars in the park are tied with crowds as the top complaint of Central Park visitors, according to a 2011 survey by the conservancy [PDF].

Horse carriage operators have seized upon the car-free park message to argue against a ban on their industry. ”As carriage drivers, our priority is safety,” said carriage industry spokesperson Christina Hansen in a statement released by the Teamsters union. “With tens of thousands of injuries caused by car crashes every year in New York City, why bring cars into Central Park at all times of day?”

The landscape has also shifted across the East River, where Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took over from car-free Prospect Park opponent Marty Markowitz. It remains to be seen, however, if Adams will become a champion of getting cars out of the park. His old state Senate district included the park, and he has a record of equivocating on the issue. “I would love, ideally, to close all our parks to vehicular traffic, but I don’ t want to do it in a manner that would put the surrounding communities into an environmental or traffic shock,” he told Patch in 2011.

Adams’s Manhattan counterpart, Gale Brewer, has a much more direct take on Central Park. “I remain committed to a permanent ban on cars in the park,” Brewer said in a statement. ”In the meantime, an almost car-free park in the summer months is a great initiative and should continue.”

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Watch NYC Reclaim Its Streets With the Swipe of a Finger

Image: A/N Blog

Images: A/N Blog

If you didn’t spend at least some of your Friday ogling this post on the Architect’s Newspaper Blog, you’ve been missing out. A/N Blog overlaid before and after shots of 25 Bloomberg-era NYC street transformations, allowing readers to “slide” between views.

“With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan‘s street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city,” writes Branden Klayko. “Whether it’s at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza or at Snøhetta’s redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion.”

A/N Blog used DOT photos to highlight street reclamations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Slide on over and feast your eyes.

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A Bronx Blast From the Past: Car-Free Grand Concourse Gets CB 4 Support


It’s been an on-again, off-again tradition for at least two decades: Turning the center lanes of the Grand Concourse into a car-free space for stress-free walking, biking and exercise. With an overwhelming vote of support from Community Board 4 earlier this week, it seems this tradition is poised for a return this summer.

In the early 1990s, then-Borough President Fernando Ferrer supported car-free Sundays on the Grand Concourse, giving Broxnites a chance to enjoy three-and-a-half miles of the borough’s main boulevard. The program, which started in July and August, was extended through November due to its popularity, but the Giuliani administration stopped the program in 1996. A limited version was brought back by Adolfo Carrión, Ferrer’s successor, in 2006, and was documented in this Streetfilm before again fading out a couple years later.

Now, the program is set for a return — if only for a few blocks and a few hours. On Tuesday, Bronx Community Board 4 lent its support with a 27-1 vote in favor of a proposal led by Transportation Alternatives, the Bronx Museum of Art, and a host of local health, cultural, neighborhood and business partners.

The groups are applying to DOT’s Weekend Walks program to open the center lanes of the Grand Concourse between 165th and 167th Streets to walking, biking and public events on three consecutive Sundays in August. Last year, there were three Weekend Walks events in the Bronx, but none on the Grand Concourse.

The event, called “Boogie on the Boulevard,” is scheduled for August 3, 10 and 17 — the same days that Summer Streets, the city’s marquee open streets event, has traditionally been held in Manhattan. ”It’s definitely playing on an extension of Summer Streets, coming up to serve folks in the Bronx,” TA field organizing manager Jill Guidera said. ”People from the Bronx go down to Park Avenue to enjoy their city in that way, and they were wondering where theirs was.”

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Last Chance! The Final 2013 Edition of Summer Streets Is Tomorrow

The final Summer Streets of 2013 is tomorrow. Photo: NYC DOT

Okay, New York. You’ve had two chances so far this August to get out of bed, off the couch, and outside to Summer Streets. This is your final warning.

The last of three Summer Streets this year is scheduled for tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. along Park Avenue and Lafayette Street, from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. The route connects to a car-free Central Park loop drive north of 72nd Street and is lined with fitness classes, live music, a zip line, and of course, the Voice Tunnel installation.

Have fun out there. You know you want to.

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Streetfilms: Scenes From Summer Streets

Saturday was the second of three Summer Streets this August, with car-free streets along Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Couldn’t make it yourself? Clarence Eckerson Jr. from Streetfilms, as always, has got you covered.

Clarence says he was particularly struck by how many people pedaled the route using Citi Bike. Although the blue bikes are already commonplace on many of the city’s streets, this photo from Clarence of the bike-share station at City Hall helps illustrate the demand during Summer Streets.

If you’re looking for the uncut version, YouTube user Sonny Sprinkles posted a 41-minute video documenting his ride from the Brooklyn Bridge to Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

Summer Streets has kept the same schedule since its inaugural run in 2008. Given the thousands of people out enjoying the event, the next mayor might score a few livable streets points by promising to expand this popular program. There’s one more chance to enjoy car-free streets on Manhattan’s East Side this summer: the third and final Summer Streets of 2013 will take place this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Summer Streets, Week 2: Where You’ll Hear Human Voices, Not Honking


Summer Streets is back for week two tomorrow. Expect sunny skies, warm temps, and laughter emanating from the Voice Tunnel. Oh, and no cars.

The fun starts at 7 a.m. Readers report a long wait at the tunnel, so come early.

Happy weekend, everybody.

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Streetsblog’s City Correspondent Has the Skinny on Summer Streets

If you’re looking for summertime recreation, I have just the spot for you. New York’s hottest club is Summer Streets.

Don’t be fooled by the “road closed” signs — they’re actually open for you to walk, bike, scoot or stroll. Inaugurated in 2008 and located on Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, this ciclovia event is the creation of NYC DOT. Thanks to club promoter Janette Sadik-Khan, this East Side hotspot now connects to a car-free Central Park loop drive north of 72nd Street.

This place has everything: climbing walls, dance performances, mini golf, tai chi, live music, fitness classes, parkour, yoga, a zip line, and Voice Tunnel.

What’s Voice Tunnel? It’s that thing where the city shuts down the Park Avenue tunnel between 33rd and 40th Streets and Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer installs an interactive light and sound exhibition.

The forecast calls for a chance of rain. Summer Streets runs from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will repeat on August 10 and 17.

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Happy Independence Day: Central Park North Loop Is Car-Free This Summer


Beginning next week, Central Park’s north loop will be closed to cars for two months, DOT announced today.

From a DOT Summer Streets 2013 press release:

Beginning Monday, July 8, Central Park’s drives north of 72nd Street will be car-free for the remainder of the summer, greatly enhancing access for pedestrians, bike riders and all park-goers.” The West Drive is currently open to motor vehicle traffic from 8 to 10 a.m. and the East Drive from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays only and they are closed to traffic all other times. This two-month expansion follows numerous community requests to expand car-free access to the park and is possible because of decreasing car volumes in recent years on both the park drives and adjacent roadways. Pedestrians and bicyclists on the park drives outnumber cars by 3 to 1 during the summer, when citywide traffic volumes are at their lowest, and local avenues are expected to see traffic volumes comparable to what they already see in other months. DOT will monitor the closure until limited hours return on Sept. 3.

New Yorkers of all stripes have for years pressed the city to return Central Park to its natural car-free state. A car-free trial has been endorsed by community boards, electeds, and, of course, park users. Hopes for trials in 2011 and 2012 didn’t pan out — the city collected traffic count data two summers ago — and for the first time in a while, there was really no buzz to speak of this year.

Tireless car-free park advocate Ken Coughlin says he and other community board members got the news yesterday. He sent us this statement:

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Eyes on the Street: NYC’s Car-Free Streets Season Gets Started

The scene on Bedford Avenue at North 7th Street this weekend during the Williamsburg Walks car-free event. Photo: Stephen Miller

On Saturday, ten blocks of the Bedford Avenue retail strip were closed to cars and open to people for Williamsburg Walks, one of the first neighborhood car-free events to partner with DOT’s Weekend Walks program. The street was full of people enjoying the sunny weather — at chairs and tables, listening to live music, playing games, lounging on grass, and stopping in at shops and restaurants along the way.

The year’s third and final Williamsburg Walks is scheduled for this Saturday. The calendar for DOT’s Weekend Walks website lists 23 streets in all five boroughs with car-free streets on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays this summer — up from 18 three years ago.

New Yorkers craving something bigger than just their own neighborhood event are looking forward to the sixth annual Summer Streets, which converts Park Avenue and Lafayette Street from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park at 72nd Street into a car-free zone. Summer Streets takes place during three consecutive Saturdays in August. DOT has not yet announced this year’s dates.

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East Harlem Parks Report Recognizes Value of Livable Streets

Because of its proximity to Central Park, you might be forgiven for assuming East Harlem has plenty of open space. But a new report from New Yorkers for Parks argues that the neighborhood is isolated from many of its parks by busy roads and other barriers. Streets and sidewalks, the group says, can play a crucial role in encouraging physical activity as part of the neighborhood’s fight against above-average asthma and obesity problems.

East Harlem children hula-hoop on the 104th Street play street in 2010. Photo: Transportation Alternatives

The report, funded by the Aetna Foundation and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, is the third in the advocacy group’s Open Space Index series; the first two reports covered Jackson Heights and the Lower East Side. Since its release in 2010, the Jackson Heights index has been used by local advocates and leaders to show how the neighborhood stands to benefit from initiatives such as play streets and public plazas.

New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Holly Leicht told Streetsblog that she is hoping for this report to have a similar effect in East Harlem. “We want to put these in the hands of community leaders and residents,” she said, “and let them figure out what their priorities are with this data.”

One of the report’s top recommendations is the continued expansion of street safety improvements in the neighborhood. “Streets and sidewalks comprise 80 percent of New York City public space,” the report notes. “Unless they are safe, accessible passageways, they can serve as barriers rather than connectors.”

Play streets, which have already been implemented in East Harlem, can play a central role in providing open space for residents, the report finds. For six Thursdays in the summer of 2010, East 104th Street between Second and Third Avenues was converted to a play street, giving children space to play games, meet with friends or work on arts-and-crafts. The report recommends linking play streets with farmers markets to promote healthy nutrition along with physical activity.

The complete street treatments recently installed on First and Second Avenues are a big step forward for street safety, but East Harlem continues to have some of the most dangerous intersections on the East Side, including 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, where 19 cyclists and pedestrians died between 1998 and 2008.

Some intersections that provide critical access to parks along the Harlem River and the East River have already received upgrades after Transportation Alternatives worked with community groups to come up with solutions.The intersection of 142nd Street and Fifth Avenue, for example, received upgrades to slow traffic accessing FDR Drive and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians accessing a footbridge to Harlem River Park.

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