NYC celebrates 7th car-free Earth Day


New York City Department of Transporation | Flickr

Barkat Chowdhury

The New York City Department of Transportation hosted its annual Open Streets: Car-Free Earth Day event.

Since 2016, the NYC DOT has encouraged all New Yorkers to leave their cars at home to promote the city’s public plazas, parks and open spaces through this event, in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding climate change and sustainability in New York City and beyond.

While New York City is largely regarded as one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the United States, the levels of traffic, light, sound and air pollution are known to be relatively high. Motor vehicles comprise about 28% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the city each year. The number of traffic-related fatalities totaled 20% above pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

Sustainability initiatives like Car-Free Earth Day aim to alleviate some of these issues, while also hoping to drive up community engagement and support for the city’s local businesses.

This year’s event was the largest, expanding across all five boroughs, closing over 100 streets and connecting 1000 square miles of city’s bike networks. Those who preferred to cycle rather than walk took advantage of the collaboration between Lyft and Citi Bike with free unlimited 30-minute rides.

To celebrate, there were a number of cultural, educational and arts-focused events, including live music and dancing on closed streets through Salsa Stories, giveaways of plants from the Horticultural Society of New York and a free Broadway Earth Day concert in Times Square.

New Yorkers participated in other events like cleaning up Bay Ridge Park, viewing climate-inspired art at The Whitney Museum of American Art and creating arts and crafts at the Queens Botanical Gardens.

NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez stated how the occasion “offers an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy activities at dozens of locations in communities around New York City.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, in true poetic fashion, took part in the festivities from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where he delivered a speech celebrating the Earth.

“I say over and over again, we have two mothers. One gave birth to us, the other sustained us,” Adams said. “The same love and nurturing that we show the mom that gave birth to us, let’s show it to the one that sustains us.”