NYC’s Car Free Earth Day returns after two-year hiatus


Jim Griffin | Wikimedia Commons

M’Niyah Lynn

This year marked the return of the fifth annual Car Free Earth Day, where 100 New York City streets went car-less on April 23. These streets were closed to vehicles from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in place of the vehicles was space for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy community programming and performances.

The car-free streets were spread across the five boroughs. Some of these streets included St. Nicholas Avenue between 181st Street and 190th Street in Manhattan and Minthorne Street between Bay Street and Victory Boulevard in Staten Island, according to an article from Thrillist.

Typically, the carless day takes place the weekend before or after Earth Day.

“We encourage all New Yorkers to embrace the streets and imagine what could be possible if we opened our streets for more than just moving personal vehicles,” New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said.

The closed streets provided people an opportunity to take advantage of free activities such as fitness classes, musical performances, games and giveaways. Citi Bike offered people unlimited 30minute rides on classic Citi Bikes for the day if they used the code CARFREE22 in the Citi Bike app.

A few other activities included events with Botanical Life/Black Girls Sew or Drag Queen Story Hour. Drag Queen Story Hour is a program for children where a local drag queen reads stories to children in libraries, bookstores and schools.

“Earth Day is when we can all commit to protecting our Earth – and one way we can do that is by repurposing our roadways,” Rodriguez said in a DOT press release.

Rodriguez started Car Free Earth Day in 2016. At the time, he was the councilmember leading the council’s transportation committee, according to Gothamist.

When Car Free Earth Day was launched, it only included Manhattan streets, but has now expanded to streets in every borough.

Lawmakers and politicians had shown support for the event. Many of them see it as a step towards a greener New York City.

“It’s great to celebrate another ‘Car-Free Earth Day,’ encouraging New Yorkers to use alternative and more environmentally conscious modes of transportation,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said in the DOT press release.

In addition, some also see the day as an advantage for small businesses and a way for people to connect with each other.

“When we open streets to pedestrians and cyclists, they become community spaces for our neighborhoods and a boon to our local small businesses,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in the DOT press release.

Car Free Earth Day helps New Yorkers reduce their carbon footprints and climate impact.  A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that climate change has caused substantial damages in things like the deterioration of ecosystems and has reduced food and water security.

According to EcoWatch, the IPCC said that giving up driving gas-powered cars is the most important thing individuals can do to help the environment.