DOT may eliminate cars from Prospect Park Grand Army entrance

The city DOT may soon ban cars from the entrance to Prospect Park, as part of a plan to boost biking and walking by radically reducing the number of vehicles passing through busy Grand Army Plaza.

A high-ranking transit official said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to making the area more pedestrian friendly, as they presented three potential redesign ideas at a virtual meeting for the neighborhood Wednesday.

The concepts ranged from a low-impact concrete buildout of existing car-free painted areas to a more ambitious design that would split the traffic circle in half in order to connect the pedestrian plaza at the park’s entrance with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch monument at the plaza’s center.

“At the moment we’re not taking anything off the table,” Deputy Commissioner Eric Beaton told Gothamist last week.

Grand Army Plaza — which sits at the northern point of Brooklyn’s iconic Prospect Park — predates the existence of cars in New York City.

The last time city officials added pedestrian and cycling space to the massive traffic circle was 2011. The redesign added a two-way unprotected bike lane to the plaza’s outer-ring service roads and expanded pedestrian space at the park entrance.

In 2018, DOT banned traffic from the park completely, eliminating a short window in the morning rush where drivers were still permitted on the East Drive.

Grand Army Plaza is the crown jewel of Brooklyn.
renderings show potential redesigns of grand army plaza
DOT floated three potential design concepts at a public hearing on Wednesday.
NYC DOT

The area is packed with parkgoers on weekends, particularly when its popular farmer’s market is in operation, and has been the site of several fatal and near-death car crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians.

Local elected officials recently urged DOT to conduct a study of the area “to address traffic safety concerns, pedestrian safety, and bike safety,” Gothamist said.

a photo of grand army plaza's soldiers' and sailors' monument
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, pictured in 2020, sits at the center of the traffic circle.
Paul Martinka

City Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez has said “the future of New York City is car-free,” but Brooklyn-based street design consultant Mike Lydon said eliminating cars from the circle entirely would be difficult to pull off given the traffic demand.

“It’s a very complicated junction. I think you could probably take a fair amount of space on the plaza streets, around the whole exterior/perimeter. Those are a bit redundant,” Lydon said.

DOT is only seeking feedback at the moment and has not begun drawing up actual design proposals, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Interested members of the public can register their thoughts with an online survey, the spokesman said.

Forty-four-year Grand Army Plaza resident Marc Russo, 71, an attorney, said he thinks DOT should change the area only minimally.

“It would create chaos. This proposal is insane. It’ll put a lot of vehicles on the side streets,” Russo said. “About 10 years ago they fixed it up, and right now except for one area by the library that could use some work, it’s very safe.”

“It’s all basically to service some selfish ego-maniacs who think that the street-grid is their own private playground. It’s very safe the way that it is.”