Summer Streets and (Mostly) Car-Free Central Park: Same As Last Year

It's back, but not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer, as smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT
It’s back, though not bigger: Summer Streets and a mostly car-free Central Park will return this summer (sorry, Prospect Park), and smaller car-free streets events in all five boroughs continue to grow. Photo: DOT

Six years ago, when Summer Streets was introduced, the New York Times asked: Will it work? This year, the question is: Why isn’t the city doing more of it?

The ciclovia, which attracted 300,000 people over three Saturdays last August, will mark its seventh year by returning to the East Side on August 2, 9, and 16 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced this morning. The event brings car-free streets, art, and activities to almost seven miles of Park Avenue and Lafayette Street between 72nd Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Like last year, there will also be by a completely car-free loop drive in Central Park north of 72nd Street, removing car traffic from that section of the park 24 hours a day from Friday, June 27 to Labor Day.

Trottenberg said that after this summer, the city will look at expanding Summer Streets and car-free hours in both Central Park and Prospect Park, which was left out of today’s announcement.

“I’m hearing from a lot of folks who are interested in making both parks a lot more car-free, and I can tell you we’re working on it,” Trottenberg said, adding that traffic signal or engineering changes might be required because traffic picks up after Labor Day. “We would love to expand the program,” she said. “You just have to make sure you have a good plan to accommodate that.”

If Trottenberg decided to make the park truly car-free, she would have the backing of longtime car-free park supporter, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “New Yorkers have enthusiastically embraced having a car-free park in summer — and the city should take steps to make Central Park car-free year-round,” Brewer said in a statement. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams says DOT has not discussed a car-free Prospect Park with him this year, but he would welcome expanded car-free hours in the park in the future.

Expanding Summer Streets, which already receives corporate sponsorship, would likely require a bigger commitment from the city. “It takes a lot of funds,” Trottenberg said. “We have to work closely with the NYPD. It’s a lot of work to close down the streets, and to their credit, they come to the table and help us with this just out of their own resources.”

Trottenberg also trumpeted the Weekend Walks car-free streets events by neighborhood groups, like  “Boogie on the Boulevard,” organized in part by the Bronx Museum of Art. The DOT website lists 32 events in all five boroughs between May and September, up from 23 last year and 18 in 2010.

As the largest car-free streets event in New York, Summer Streets will feature attention-grabbing public art exhibits. The Park Avenue tunnel, which featured a light installation last year, will host a sound exhibit by Norwegian artist Jana Winderen this year. If that isn’t enough, 91 trumpeters will line Park Avenue between 45th and 72nd Streets playing an original composition by musician Craig Shepard. And of course, the zip line will return to Foley Square.

Trottenberg said she would ride the zip line and would try to convince Mayor de Blasio to try it, as well. “You don’t have many chances for zip lines in New York City,” Trottenberg said. “I just committed, so now I have to do it.”