Where is the one place you go in this crazy city to walk among trees, breathe fresh air, and sit out in the sun? A park. Of the many parks in the city, Central Park is by far the most famous and the most popular. Now, Central Park will be safer for all.
Central Park was the brainchild of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1853. New York City was rapidly growing, and instead of developing the entire island, the New York State legislature set aside more than 750 acres of land in prime Manhattan real estate aside to preserve wildlife and provide a place for New Yorkers to pretend they are really, truly outside in the natural world. However, since they were in a city and understood its limitations, Olmsted and Vaux designed four roadways, for originally horse and buggies, now cars, to traverse through the vast park from East to West. Those streets, 65th Street, 79th Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street, were initially praised for their ingenuity since they are camouflaged to not disrupt the nature going New Yorkers. However, 165 years later, this feature will cease to exist.
This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he is making some major changes to Central Park this year. The Park will become a pedestrian place only; that’s right, no more cars in Central Park. Starting June 27th, 2018, there will be no cars allowed through the park below 72nd Street, except for emergency vehicles and related personnel. Cars have already been banned from cross streets above 72nd Street, and have been allowed on the cross streets below 72nd during designated hours, but that will all stop. Drivers will only be allowed on the four cross streets built into the original design of the park.
Central Park goes car free in June. 24/7, 365 days a year — because parks are for people, not cars. pic.twitter.com/kvRUgIudx1
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 20, 2018
“This was not the purpose of this park, to be built for automobiles. Literally, it was built before there were automobiles. It was built for people,” de Blasio said. “Now this park will realize its full potential for our runners, for our walkers, for our bicyclists, for our kids on tricycles. [and] The unicyclists, don’t leave out the unicyclists.”
Walking, running and bicycling New Yorkers are thrilled with the new changes. While Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg does not believe the changes will have a large impact on traffic through the area, taxi drivers saw Central Park as a place to break away from the intense traffic jams that flood the rest of the city. Time will tell how effective the changes are in keeping the park cleaner and safer, but I am personally looking forward to a place in this city that is a little less polluted than before.
Central Park has been on the list of National Historic Landmarks since 1962.
Image credit: Matt Janicki