Youth Advocates Deliver 10,000 Letters Calling For Car-Free Prospect Park

Youth advocate Oswald Bowman kicks things off at yesterday’s rally for a car-free Prospect Park.

The Prospect Park Youth Advocates led a joyous procession over the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday afternoon on their way to deliver more than 10,000 letters to Mayor Bloomberg in support of a car-free park. The youth advocates and students from Freedom Academy and the Brooklyn Academy for Science and the Environment were joined on the steps of City Hall by council members Tish James and David Yassky, calling for a Prospect Park that is "safe, healthy, green, and absolutely car-free."

After leading a call-and-response of "No more cars — Where? — In Prospect Park" at the head of the procession (backed by the strains of the Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band), youth advocate Oswald Bowman gave the opening remarks. "I don’t have a backyard, but I do have Prospect Park; Prospect Park is my backyard," he said. "I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t like no one driving through my backyard."

Bowman and fellow youth advocates Michael Cheng and Farah Karimova spoke about gathering signatures and documenting the hazards of cars in the park this summer. Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White gave three reasons why Bloomberg should heed their message (download a PDF) and instruct DOT to institute a three-month car-free trial:

  • Park users face a potentially deadly risk from cars, which travel on the loop drive at speeds as high as 47 mph and sneak into the park during car-free hours when people have been lulled into a sense of security.
  • The presence of cars in the park suppresses physical activity, taking up space during the hours before and after work and school when people have free time.
  • Closing the park to cars will not result in unacceptable traffic impacts.

This last point was echoed by Yassky, who noted that previous expansions of car-free hours have not yielded the excessive traffic on nearby streets that opponents predicted. "The best evidence of why we should have a car-free Prospect Park is that we’re already halfway there and it has been tremendous," he said. "We have seen it work part of the way, now let’s do it all the way."

And now for more photos. (You’ll have to wait for Robin Urban Smith’s Streetfilm for some audio and video of the Steppers. In the meantime, you can see their 2005 incarnation in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.)

With the youth advocates at the head, the procession approaches the midpoint of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Oswald Bowman leads the chant.

The horn section of the Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band.

The Steppers perform on the sidewalk near the foot of the bridge. Security didn’t let them inside the gates to City Hall.

City Council member Tish James applauds the youth advocates.

Photos: Ben Fried