Central Park Free of Car Traffic Starting This June, Mayor Announces
Central Park will be closed to car traffic year-round on the entire roadway beginning June 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a press conference held today on the Mall in Central Park. The decision opens the six-mile loop to runners, cyclists, and all of the park's 42-million-plus visitors each year. The thoroughfares that run east-to-west under the main roadway will remain open to cars.
The announcement builds upon previous efforts to make city parks safer and more accessible to visitors. Central Park first closed to vehicular traffic on weekends beginning in 1966, and then limited access in certain sections of the park in 2015, while Prospect Park in Brooklyn closed to all car traffic on January 2 of this year.
Joining the Mayor to celebrate the occasion was NYRR President and CEO Michael Capiraso, who opened the ceremony. As a longtime New York City resident, Capiraso noted how he's viewed the park as his backyard, and how he has logged countless miles over the park's loops.
Speaking on behalf of New York Road Runners, he stated, "As supporters of a healthy lifestyle, we are so excited that this amazing and beautiful park will be enhanced by being traffic free."
"New York Road Runners has done so much for this city; the Marathon is just one piece of it," said de Blasio. "We are proud to be one of the world's great running cities, and now this park will realize its full potential—for our runners, for our walkers, for our bicyclists, for our kids on tricycles, the unicyclists—all of them will now get to enjoy a car-free Central Park."
Also delivering remarks were Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and New York City Council Members Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Helen Rosenthal, who biked to the event and spoke while carrying her helmet.
In addition, the Mayor addressed how this effort contributes to city's wider sustainability initiatives. After mentioning that the city has pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050, he added, "We need to think about all of the things that will allow us to make change, all the ways we can stop polluting the earth, all the ways we can use renewable energy, all the ways we can conserve. That's what Earth Day calls us to do."
As he expressed hope that this announcement will spark similar change in cities across the globe, the Mayor took time to speak on the park's history.
"This park was not built for automobiles," he said, referencing its opening in 1858. "Literally, it was built before there were automobiles. It was built for people."
Speaking on the importance of places like Central Park to the city and to its people, he closed by saying, "Parks in this city are sacred because our parks are our refuge," adding, "I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than returning this extraordinary park to the people, and letting us all feel the beauty in nature without a single car in sight."