NYC Parks Renames Central Park Drive in Honor of Former Mayor John V. Lindsay
NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White and Central Park Conservancy President & CEO, Douglas Blonsky, unveiled new signs today renaming the Lower Loop of Central Park Drive as "John V. Lindsay Drive" in honor of former Mayor John V. Lindsay. The Lindsay family was represented at today's dedication by his daughters Kathy Lake and Margi Picotte, his granddaughters Stephanie, Jessica, and Mimi, his sister-in-law, Mary Lindsay, and other nieces and nephews, as well as alumni of the Lindsay Administration.
Lindsay, the 103rd Mayor of New York (1966-73), first closed the Central Park Drive to traffic on weekends in the summer of 1966, creating unprecedented accessibility for cyclists, pedestrians and joggers.
In response to broad popular support, the closings were extended year round in 1967 and were replicated in other major parks, starting with Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Forest Park in Queens. The initiative was part of the Lindsay Administration's broader effort to open up street access to pedestrians and cyclists, providing New Yorkers with more opportunities to engage in an active and healthier lifestyle.
Lindsay formally closed Fifth Avenue to traffic on Sundays, beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970. Also in 1970, he released the Van Ginkel Report on "Movement in Midtown," which proposed a network of pedestrian streets in midtown, including the closing of Broadway to cars from Lincoln Center to Herald Square.
Almost fifty years later, Mayor's Lindsay's work in Central Park set an incredible precedent for our city and beyond. His historic decision has led to an expansion in New York City furthered by the Bloomberg Administration, as well as across the nation and beyond.
"At NYC Parks, we are dedicated to making sure that all New Yorkers have access to the parks and public spaces that contribute so much to our city's quality of life," said Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. "Mayor John V. Lindsay worked to promote our parks as centers where New Yorkers could enjoy biking, walking, and running all year round. His efforts in Central Park were a big step towards this goal, making the renaming of the Lower Loop a fitting tribute to his legacy."
John Lindsay's daughters Kathy Lake and Margi Picotte said "We remember as young children, living in Gracie Mansion, that the six of us would ride our bikes together through Central Park with so many other families on bikes, or just strolling, and joggers, who would call out their thanks to our dad for closing the park to cars. The park was special to all of us and dad took great pride in having made it more accessible for all to enjoy. We know that he and our mom would be deeply pleased by this dedication and, on their behalf, we thank Commissioner White and the Conservancy."
Representing former Lindsay officials, Jay Kriegel, his Special Counsel, and Sid Davidoff, his Administrative Assistant, said "We well-remember how controversial John Lindsay's 1966 decision to close Central Park to traffic was, strongly opposed by Traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes. This was the beginning of a bold, far-sighted effort to reallocate the use of scarce streets from the total domination by automobiles of the Robert Moses era, leading to an urban revolution in America and globally, that has expanded access to streets and parks for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians. Despite the widespread success of this initiative, it nonetheless generated opposition, most notably when his proposal for the Madison Avenue Mall, closed to car traffic from 34th to 57th Streets, with cafes and amenities, was voted down 12-10 in 1973 by the then-Board of Estimate. We are pleased today that the Parks Department has recognized Mayor Lindsay's visionary role in making New York more liveable."
The dedication took place at the entrance to the Park Drive at West 67th Street, which is particularly appropriate as the Lindsay's lived right across Central Park West at Hotel des Artistes, One West 67th Street, after his Mayoralty and often walked into the park at this entrance.
Central Park welcomes approximately 40 million visitors annually. The Lower Loop of Central Park Drive runs 1.7 miles from West 72nd Street to East 72nd Street.