It’s been a debate for some time, but with a new petition making the rounds, some neighbors are once again pushing for a total ban on cars in Prospect Park.
Currently, drivers are allowed to access the loop inside the park northbound along East Drive Monday to Friday from 7-9am and then southbound along West Drive Monday to Friday from 5-7pm. It’s a brief allowance during rush hour, but whether the added route alleviates traffic on alternate roads near the park is something petitioners feel is minimal, and would not compare to the health and safety of pedestrians and cyclists who use the park — the petition, which as of this posting has more than 1,000 signatures, voices concern that the cars in the park may, at some point, cause a death.
“Sooner or later someone is going to get killed,” states the petition from Park Slope resident Michael Ring. “A little kid or a senior citizen is going to get mowed down by someone who thinks they’re saving 5 minutes by racing through a park.”
Those who’ve signed already say things that have been brought up in the past, most recently when the lanes on the drive were reconfigured — that a park is no place for cars.
“I want to relax and enjoy nature and the other park goers when I’m in the park, not worry about being hit by a car whose driver’s only goal is to get somewhere faster,” writes petition-supporter Nancy Hoch. “I also don’t want to breath the exhaust when I’m exercising which means I have to avoid the park during ‘car hours.’ They have the rest of the city. Let us have the park!!!!”
Park car bans have been proposed before — City Council members have tried to introduce bills in the past for both Central and Prospect Parks, but those have gone nowhere. Central Park has previously enjoyed a car-free summer, and there was talk of having that summer break again this year, which might also better gauge what effect a year-round ban might have.
Prospect Park, however, has not seen such a break — though Community Board 6, for one, has, in the past, voiced support for such a trial ban. Such a trial might be the best way to see what impact a ban would have on other area streets. One guess, which may have changed since then, was provided when talk of a ban came up in 2009. At that time, the city estimated that about 40 cars per hour would head toward Park Circle, the roundabout at the southwest corner of the park, which they didn’t seem to believe would be an immense impact on traffic.
“These roads are closed for 158 out of 168 hours a week,” the petition states. “Can we just end this confusing and dangerous situation and let our parks be parks and not shortcuts.”
What do you think — should cars be banned from the park, is that stretch necessary for drivers during rush hour?