Car Free Day returns

Car Free Day returns

Story and photos by Gregg McQueen

No wheels for Washington Heights.

This coming Saturday, a nine-block stretch of busy St. Nicholas Avenue will be packed with pedestrians, cyclists and leisure activities instead of automobiles, as Car Free Day makes its return.

On April 22, to mark the celebration of Earth Day, St. Nicholas Avenue between 181st Street and 190th Street will be completely closed to cars, and accessible only to people and cyclists.

A host of educational, fitness and entertainment activities – all free – will take place in the street that day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Ydanis Rodriguez organized Car Free Day.

The programming includes two stages that will feature performances from Carnegie Hall, People’s Theater Project, Association of Dominican Classical Artists, Dance Project of Washington Heights, Alianza Dominicana, La Mega DJs and others.

There will also be bike helmet giveaways, a group run organized by New York Road Runners, giveaways by Citi Bike, a fire truck demonstration, basketball and tennis clinics, and children’s activities with BioBus, Storefront Science and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum.

Locals can also drop off old items to be recycled, including clothes, electronics, books and batteries.

The event is part of the second annual citywide Car Free Day NYC, organized last year by City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez in attempt to get New Yorkers to refrain from using vehicles on Earth Day.

“We need to share our streets,” Rodriguez said at a press conference to announce the programming. “We need to invest more in our buses and our trains, and we need to support our pedestrians and our cyclists.”

Angelina Ramirez of Washington Heights BID.

Programming for the event was organized by Rodriguez’s office in collaboration with the Washington Heights Business Improvement District (BID).

In pointing out that Northern Manhattan has one of the highest asthma rates in the city, State Senator Marisol Alcantara called on local residents to do refrain from using their vehicles as much as possible during the year.

“New York has the greatest public transportation system in the country, and we should stop using our cars,” she said.

In addition to programming in Northern Manhattan, Car Free Day will be marked by street closures on Broadway between 17th Street and 47th Street, as well as in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. 

Last year’s uptown street closure took place on Wadsworth Avenue between 173rd Street and 177th Streets, but Rodriguez said that this year he wanted to move the location to a corridor that is typically busier.

“It’s a celebration for our community,” said Assemblymember Carrmen De La Rosa.

Washington Heights BID director Angelina Ramirez said that local food merchants along the nine-block corridor will participate by offering free samples outside of their stores.

“There will be no sales at the Car Free Day activities,” she said. “We want to stress that everything will be free and family-oriented.”

“It’s important for us to continue to make Earth Day special,” said Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa.

“It’s a celebration for our community,” she added. We’re celebrating the fact that Northern Manhattan can stand tall and say we’ve been educated on global warming and climate change and we’re taking a stand.”

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