Cars may no longer roam the roadways of Prospect Park if one city councilmember has her way.
Councilmember Gail Brewer submitted a bill on Tuesday that would ban cars from Prospect and Central parks at all times, setting the stage for showdown between local parkgoers and drivers from father flung neighborhoods who use the park as a shortcut.
“ People are using these parks by the millions,” Brewer said. “ I’ m a big believer that without the cars you have more pedestrian safety, bicycle safety and air safety."
But not all local politicians agreed with Brewer.
“ 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,” said state Sen. Eric Adams, whose district includes Prospect Park and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Under the councilwoman’ s proposal, cars would still be able to enter Prospect Park on Ocean Avenue and drive to the Wollman Rink parking lot.
Most locals were in favor of the bill.
“I think it’ s great news,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors. “ It’s the way the parks were designed. They were created as a respite in a busy crowded city and (making the parks car-free) would allow people to recreate freely without having to worry about the interaction with vehicles that often travel at significant speeds in the parks.”
Community Board 6 has been in support of closing Prospect Park to cars for a six-month trial period since the idea was floated in the 1990s. But Community Boards 14 and 7, which cover the Windsor Terrace and Ditmas Park have both raised objections because of traffic concerns, said Craig Hammerman, Community Board 6 District Manager. Prospect Heights’ Community Board 8, has not taken an official position.
Chris Owens, the district leader for the 52nd district, which includes Park Slope, agreed. “ I’ m a park user, but I think people who live around the park do deserve some consideration. We don’ t want to make Grand Army Plaza anymore of a parking lot than it already is.”
Asked about the traffic impact, Brewer said studies indicate closing the loops won’ t have much of an effect.
“ Traffic is terrible all the time. I don’ t think it would be any worse,” she said.
Brewer’ s proposal is a re-introduction of a 2006 bill, which made it as far as a Transportation Committee hearing. But it was withdrawn after Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted a compromise of banning cars all times but rush hour: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Prospect Park.
But rush hour is also primetime for joggers, bikers and other people enjoying the park, and Transportation Alternatives and other groups have been pushing for years for a total ban.
"Central and Prospect parks are New Yorkers' back yards and just like someone with a house, we don't want highways driving through our back yards,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives and a Slope resident, said in a statement.