Old habits drive hard.
Drivers are regularly taking illegal shortcuts through Prospect Park despite the mayor’s permanent ban on vehicles inside Brooklyn’s Backyard, bikers claim.
“I’m in the park everyday, and it’s rare that I don’t ride through and see at least one or two civilian vehicles,” said Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident Stanley Greenberg, who with other locals and officials is part of the Prospect Park Community Committee, which engages with meadow caretakers on behalf of residents.
The wayward motorists are taking advantage of temporary barriers on roads into the park that don’t fully cover their entrances, maneuvering around the blockades — the same as those used to corral crowds along parade routes — by driving onto curbs and into the green space, according to another cyclist.
“They have what are called French barriers, but they don’t stretch entirely across the road, so [drivers are] just putting two tires on the sidewalk and going around,” said Dennis Hrehowsik, president of the Brooklyn Bird Club, who claimed he bikes through Prospect Park almost every day.
Mayor DeBlasio booted the last legally allowed four-wheelers from Prospect Park in January, when he indefinitely closed the East Drive to Downtown-bound drivers who used it as a weekday shortcut during the morning rush. Hizzoner previously barred Coney Island-bound drivers from using the park’s West Drive as an alternative evening-rush route in 2015.
And four-wheelers careening through the meadow in the wake of the mayor’s park-wide ban are far more dangerous to pedestrians because they’re explicitly outlawed, Hrehowsik said.
“It’s one thing when cars are expected, but now that they aren’t, private cars traveling through the park at 35 miles per hour are much more dangerous than a slow-moving vehicle,” the bike rider said.
Greenberg said he had a close call while pedaling through the meadow on Thursday night when a driver behind the wheel of an orange muscle car cut him off after running a red light at the intersection of Center and West drives.
“A big orange muscle car almost hit me!” he said.
And Greenberg isn’t the first to encounter a car on West Drive since DeBlasio banned all traffic from it — last December, a motorist illegally cruising the road hit and injured a jogger as she ran along it.
The president of meadow steward the Prospect Park Alliance, which oversees the lawn in conjunction with the city, told attendees of a Jan. 16 Prospect Park Community Committee meeting that caretakers intend to install more substantial wooden barriers to better obstruct the entrances to park roads, according to Greenberg.
And the cyclist said that Alliance honchos hope to receive even safer barricades under a $50-million initiative to increase the number of bollards protecting public spaces across the city, which DeBlasio put in place following deadly terrorist and other vehicle-based attacks last year.
A Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman said that “more permanent fixtures” to block four-wheelers from accessing meadow roads will be installed in the coming weeks. A Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency was unaware of the issue.
Officers with the parks department’s Park Enforcement Patrol have issued one summons for an unauthorized vehicle in Prospect Park since the mayor’s permanent ban on autos kicked in earlier this year, according to an agency rep.
The Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on its own summonses issued for illegal four-wheelers in the park by press time.