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Car-free for some, a parking lot for others - Opponents decry barring autos from Prospect Park

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Park Slope Assemblymember Jim Brennan has joined the fight demanding due process and community involvement when it comes to traffic changes in Prospect Park.

Brennan, who also represents Windsor Terrace and Kensington, joined residents living in the southern end of the park last week as they showed off shirts stating, quite clearly, “Windsor Terrace is not a parking lot.”

Those at the rally, who comprised mostly residents from Community Board 7 in Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park and Community Board 14 in Flatbush, said that if the city closes vehicular traffic to the park, their streets will be overburdened with cars and trucks.

If the city wants to close the park to traffic, the residents who will have to face the traffic snarls and undue pollution should have their say, they explained.

A recent march spearheaded by the bicyclist advocate group Transportation Alternatives has sparked a renewed interest in initiating a three-month test to see if cutting the park off to cars would cause a traffic burden on surrounding streets.

Councilmembers Letitia James and Bill de Blasio said that they support a three-month test to “see what will happen.”

“Until we know for sure, it’s all just theory,” de Blasio said.

But in a recent letter he fired off to Janette Sadik-Kahn, commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, Brennan said that “eliminating rush-hour traffic in the park could have major impacts on all major roads surrounding the park, including Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, Parkside Avenue, Prospect Park West, Prospect Park Southwest, Park Circle, Bartel Pritchard Square and Grand Army Plaza.”

“The DOT should not act on this proposal without an environmental impact statement and full consultation with all adjacent community boards,” he wrote.

He then went a step further, demanding that community consultation should include “input into the selection of consultants, notice, public hearings and rights to review and comment during any phase of a public decision making process.”

Currently Prospect Park is open for vehicular traffic for only four hours a day during morning and evening rush hours.

The city lowered the vehicular traffic hours last year without any community consultation to in part appease bicyclist enthusiasts who were then demanding the same three-month study that has been raised again.

Brennan said that the impact of last year’s traffic changes to the park can be seen every day on congested neighborhood streets.

If the city wants to make more changes, this time, the community should have their say, he said.

“My main concern is that there is a proper process,” he said. “Stopping a large number of cars from using the park could have a significant environmental impact when it comes to traffic, pollution and safety on adjoining avenues.”

“It is the obligation of the city of New York to conduct a fair, factual and democratic process when they plan to make a significant change to traffic patterns that would affect its citizens,” he said.

Officials from Transportation Alternatives do not believe that closing the park to cars would significantly impact traffic in surrounding streets.

A DOT spokesperson said that the city currently has no plans to ban cars from Prospect Park, nor do they plan to conduct a three-month test.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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