Council Member Re-Introduces Bill Banning Cars in Central, Prospect Parks

A City Council member is pushing to ban cars from the loop drives in Central Park and Prospect Park.

Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said this isn't the first time the idea's been floated.

In 2006, the City Council held a hearing on this issue, but the legislation was withdrawn after Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned cars in parks for much of the day. (To see the hours vehicles are allowed in Central Park, go here; Prospect Park's information is here.)

But Brewer says that now the time is right to remove all cars.

"Fast forward to 2011," Brewer said. "I think there's even more people who are delighted using our parks. These are obviously destinations. ... There's an incredible amount of exercise going on in the parks, and I think particularly during the summer, where you have the coming together of the joggers, the pedestrians, the bicyclists, the skateboarders, the skaters, and just people walking and relaxing -- combined with cars, I think it's a very challenging situation."

She said it's also an environmental concern too.

"Parks are supposed to be livable, and you're supposed to be able to do exercise, and you're supposed to be able to breathe," she said. "I think that cars do not have a place in these two parks. ... That’s why I’m introducing this legislation – to just have the people, not the cars."

She'd like to see the legislation test-driven in the summer: "When people are exercising and really enjoying the parks, that would be a great time to try (the ban), on a pilot basis," she said. "I think that’s the way to approach this issue."

The proposed ban wouldn't affect the Central Park transverses or emergency and official vehicles.  But Brewer said she knows some drivers -- and even residents -- will object to the legislation.

"When the car hours were reduced (in 2006), there was a lot of discussion, and a lot of opposition and fear that cars would end up on Fifth Avenue, in our case in Manhattan, and Central Park West," she said. "To the best of my knowledge, there's always traffic on Fifth Avenue and always traffic on Central Park West, but I don't think it's been increased as a result of fewer car hours in Central Park."

Brewer's legislation calls for a study of the impact of the park road closures upon traffic in the surrounding area. A previous study said the impact would be minimal.

It was not immediately clear who else in City Council had signed on to support the bill. A spokesman for Councilman James Vacca, who chairs the Council's transportation committee, said that if the legislation gets enough support, it will get a hearing. The Mayor’s Office and the city’s Department of Transportation said they don’t comment on legislation until there’s been a hearing.