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Central Park will be permanently car-free by June

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Cars will be banned from most park roads

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Prospect Park went permanently car-free at the beginning of 2018, and now, Central Park is following suit.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that cars will be banned from roads in Central Park below 72nd Street; his administration had previously enacted a ban on cars on park roads above 72nd Street.

“Our parks are for people, not cars,” De Blasio said in a statement. “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.”

The ban will affect traffic on West Drive, Center Drive, and Terrace Drive, all of which allow vehicular traffic on weekday mornings. But it won’t affect the major crosstown thoroughfares at 66th and 72nd streets, which carry both cars and buses from the east to the west sides. (It’s the same above 72nd Street—the crosstown roads at 86th and 96th streets still carry buses and cars.)

De Blasio teased the news in a tweet last night, but sources confirmed to the New York Daily News that the change is coming; the timing, right before Earth Day, couldn’t be better.

Safe streets activists have long pushed for banning cars within the park, which sees more than 35 million visitors—most of whom traverse the space on foot or bike—every year. There has long been public support for the move, too; in 2005, Transportation Alternatives collected signatures from 100,000 people who supported a total ban on vehicles in Central Park.

“Over the years, we’ve stood in the cold, in the heat, in the rain, and in the snow to win the support of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” TransAlt executive director Paul Steely White said in a statement. “Progress comes in fits and starts—a weekend trial here, a seasonal trial there—and often without any assurance that meaningful reform is coming. So we’re thrilled to finally witness a positive conclusion to the four decade-long campaign to rid Central Park of vehicular traffic, and we’re grateful to Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg for returning Central Park to what it was always meant to be: a place for people, not for cars.”

The park is also in the midst of a large-scale restoration project that it says is intended to “restore and preserve Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s historic vision for the extraordinary landscape of the Park.” Banning cars is one way to achieve that since vehicles, by their very existence, disrupt that vision of a pastoral, lush landscape.

The change will be put into place on June 1.

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