Thursday, June 4, 2015

Do we have to wait for someone to die to keep rush hour traffic out of Prospect and Central Parks?

A few weeks ago I met with a new group of runners to do the loop Prospect Park. I got to admit when we got to Prospect Park I wasn't in a good mood. You see, I had joined the Achilles Running Club. Their mission "is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote personal achievement, enhance self esteem, and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life."  I don't need that shit.  My self-esteem is fine.  I'm a helper not a helpie.  But I knew I was gonna stick with this group, I could be a guide.  I could help.  I could make new friends.

So our motley crew got to the 3rd Street entrance at Prospect Park at about 6:15.  It's been a while since I've been Prospect Park at that time and as soon as we got there I heard one of the other participants say," When do the cars stop zooming through the park?"  My spontaneous answer was, "when one of them kills someone."  I kind of forgot, but cars are allowed to use Prospect Park and Central Park as a shortcut during rush hour.  From 7 AM to 9 AM they can go towards downtown Manhattan and from 5 AM to 7 PM they can go the other way.  It wasn't a lot of cars, they came in clumps whizzing by as soon as the light turned green for them.  They all just seem to zoom on to the next red light.  The problem is, the placement of the traffic lights often has nothing to do with where people walk into the park

The next morning I created this petition.  It was a mess but it got the attention of some of the people at Transportation Alternatives.  They helped me tweak it and help me get it some attention.  I told him I was willing to be the crazy, but polite and persistent person in the room who wasn't can you give up until this was done.  I made more friends.

I was helping my Councilman, Brad Lander with a race we have worked together on.   I put him on the spot.  I told him I just started this petition and asked him if he would support it?  He tried to hem and haw and say it's only a couple of hours a day and it's not that many cars.  I said yeah it's only a couple hours a day and only a few cars are making the park unpleasant and unsafe when they're there,   I reminded him that it's only a few cars making it unpleasant and unsafe for many people. Also, that there is no evidence that they are getting anywhere faster because they're using the park.  He said he would support it if I got to 1,000 signatures

I walked the line between spammer and promoter and put the survey on all the Facebook and Twitter pages of any organization that might enjoy Prospect or Central Park, without rush-hour traffic using them as a shortcut.  It took me six days to get 1,000 signatures.  So I got this for my Councilman...


OK, I'm good to my word. You can release the following statement to signers of the petition (and, if you like, to local media): 
“In light of strong and growing support from my constituents -- as reflected in the petition created by our good friend Michael Ring -- of the long-term success of the Prospect Park Drive reconfiguration in 2011 that significantly reduced traffic in the park, and of our continued work together toward Vision Zero, I agree: the time has come to get rush-hour traffic out of Prospect Park. I look forward to working with you in this effort."
That helped a lot.  It did get the local media attention.  Starting with The Park Slope Stoop .  Then the Gothamist hid this article somewhere on their website.  South Slope News did this.  Ditmas Park Corner did this.  Streetblog only did this,  The Q at Parkside blog found the petition and did this story . I spent a lot of time with Leslie Albright from DNA info and she wrote this story about me.  (It turned out Leslie and I went way back. A long time ago she asked me if I had a favorite water fountain, and more recently she help identifying maybe he'll get back to me now. Maybe he'll get back to me now. An unknown runner who was found unconscious in Prospect Park)

Then things got big, I got a call from Metro New York, if you look on the floor in the subway station will find this article.  Then I got the call from WPIX TV. Would've been nice if Metro or the TV news would've provided a link to the petition. And unfortunately the TV news felt it had a provide balance by interviewing a guy in the Honda Odyssey on his way to Borough Park.

Then I got a personal invitation to the Brooklyn meeting of  Transportation Alternatives. It was kinda like being back in college and everyone clapped when I introduced myself and said I was the guy who started the petition.  We were all on the same page but I had to remind them not to use the phrase car free. When you say car free you sound like an extremist who hates cars.  I don't hate cars, I own a car. But if the road in Prospect Park never had any traffic on it no one would ever think to put any there. The outside lane of the road needs to be for vehicles. Police, maintenance vehicles, disabled people, and when is a special event sometime someone is to put out the mile markers you need a truck for that.

And because of the TV interview above I was able to email the Brooklyn borough President with the subject line of "we were on TV together". He actually quickly got back to me. ....

Thanks for reaching out. My team and I are looking at the options to turn our park into a full vehicle free park.

I replied that vehicle free and car free words that scare the people who think that bikes are scary. Also, that we are trying to go with removing rush-hour traffic from Prospect Park. I got an email from one of his people asking me if I wanted appointment with the borough president. I replied yes and filled out the Google form he sent me but that was a week ago and nothings happened yet.
But, I am still hopeful.. I am very hopeful because before he even announced he was running for borough president he walked on my street and made this video.

A Walk thru Park Slope with NY State Senator Eric Adams from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

I found this video four years ago only because he was on my street saying things that make tons of sense. When I found out he was running for Borough President I did everything I could to campaign for him, but nobody ever got back to me because no one was running against him. I'm about to remind the Borough President of Brooklyn what he said four years ago. Maybe he will get back to me now.

My community board was for a trial which never happened back in 2002, " . Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman said, "We support a three-month test ban, on the very serious condition that the criteria are discussed publicly and agreed upon beforehand." Quoted from the Daily News., Now they support a total ban

We were all trying to figure out a way to remind The Mayor that this was him, in 2002. Skip ahead to 1:30.

In 2008 Mr. De Blasio said that the city should “fully explore” how to make Prospect Park “a more inviting and safe destination for Brooklynites.”“Prohibiting cars from the park has many benefits.”  In the Brooklyn Daily

It's been a few weeks since I started the petition and it has about 1700 signatures. Almost half of them are from direct links that I shared. So there's not much more I can do without some help. Maybe I'll get it from Eric Adams or maybe from Brad Lander. I'll keep you all posted on this blog page.


  1. You're a good man, Charlie Brown.

  2. An update

    1. It's a very big start and it was kinda weird to have reporters calling me to ask me what I thought or if I could take credit for this

    2. Welcome to the big leagues as an activist. Before you had opinions and nobody cared. Now they care.

      But you still have to take out the garbage.


You do not have to be nice!


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