It took several decades, tireless work from safe streets activists, and the backing of two different mayors, but finally: Prospect Park is car-free. It’s the first time that “Brooklyn’s backyard” will be without any vehicular traffic since automobiles first became A Thing; somewhere, the ghost of Frederick Law Olmsted is similing.
This morning, DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg officially kicked off the park’s new, vehicle-free future during a presser at its Grand Army Plaza entrance. “I have spent countless hours enjoying the beauty of Prospect Park,” she said in a statement. “Cyclists, joggers and pedestrians, young and old, will be able to rejoice year-round in a safer and quieter park.” To underscore that point, she then took a bike ride—on a Citi Bike, no less—along East Drive, despite the day’s sub-freezing temperatures.
Getting to this point has taken quite some time; it was back in the 1990s that Transportation Alternatives first began campaigning for the removal of cars within the park. Despite gaining the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his term, cars remained on the park’s East Drive for years.
But this summer, the city launched a pilot program that closed the loop to vehicular traffic for two months; per the DOT, in that time, “car-free hours received enormous support from the park’s recreational users, who had outnumbered cars by more than 3-1 during peak morning hours.” In October, Mayor de Blasio announced that the pilot would be made permanent, much to the delight of safe streets activists and parkgoers everywhere.
Car-Free Prospect Park is so HOT that no one even minded celebrating it outside this 20-degree morning pic.twitter.com/ZoUY5zEyGt— Sam Biederman (@Biedersam) January 2, 2018
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle also captured the final private car’s ride through the park; it was sent off by a small group of cheerful—and extremely bundled up—cyclists: