Critics of new restrictions on drivers in Prospect Park mouthed off at city officials on Monday night, lambasting a plan that would make the park safer for cyclists and other park users.
The city last month alienated members of Community Board 7, which covers Windsor Terrace and has historically opposed anti-car policies in Prospect Park, when it decided to shut the Third Street entrance and exit, as well as the 16th Street exit-only portal during the evening rush hour — measures that CB 7 says will compound traffic on Prospect Park Southwest.
The already implemented changes allow southbound cars to exit the park only at Park Circle. Some drivers have opted to not enter the park at Grand Army Plaza at all, critics said, putting them on local roads.
“The bumper-to-bumper traffic was unbelievable [even before the change],” said board member Joan Botti on Monday night. “Now that Third Street is closed, it’s even worse.”
The changes were made to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, Department of Transportation officials said. On Monday, the agency revealed data about traffic volume in the park from 5 to 7 pm that showed marginal effects from the closed gateways.
During a “peak hour,” for example, about 250 vehicles head southbound through the park, entering at Grand Army Plaza. About 50 cars typically exited at Third Street and another 37 departed via 16th Street.
That means that 87 of the 250 drivers would currently be seeking alternate routes, possibly on local streets in Windsor Terrace.
“The volumes are light enough that there’s a minimal impact,” said Ann Marie Doherty, the agency’s director of research of implementation and safety.
But members of the community board countered that Windsor Terrace shouldn’t have to bear the costs of an increasingly car-free Prospect Park, which currently only permits cars on the East Drive for two hours in the morning and on the West Drive during the two-hour evening rush.
“The compromise is down to two hours,” pleaded CB7 Chairman Randy Peers, who accused the Department of Transportation of having “an activist agenda.”
“This is just a chipping away [of cars in the park],” he said.