The first Earth Day was held nationally in April 1970, and here in New York thousands came out to participate, with Fifth Avenue closed to traffic between Central Park and Union Square and, according to the Parks Department, four blocks of 14th Street were shut down for an "ecological carnival." Now, over fifty years later, the city’s annual celebration is rooted in that first Earth Day. This year the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is hosting its largest car free event to date that will extend across all five boroughs. 

Car Free Earth Day will take place on Saturday, April 23rd (the day after Earth Day is officially observed). The event will also serve to launch the agency’s public space programming for the 2022 season, and to kick-off their popular Open Streets program, which stemmed from the pandemic and further helps to bring the city’s streets to life by shutting down select stretches of roadways to traffic.

Two individuals biking down open NYC street during Car Free Earth Day 2021
Photo courtesy of NYC DOT.

Now in its fifth year, the 2022 Car Free Earth Day event will connect over 100 open streets, 22 plazas, and include over 1,000 miles of the city's bike network. 

While the initiative allows many to partake in the novelty of cycling, running, or even rollerskating on the streets of New York City, it also helps promote “micro mobility options” and the reduction of emissions and pollution.

Band plays on sidewalk while two individuals sitting at a table with folding chairs in an open NYC street at Car Free Earth Day 2021
Photo courtesy of NYC DOT.

NYC DOT commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, who conceived of the idea in 2016 as the City Council Transportation Chair, said, “Earth Day is when we can all commit to protecting our Earth – and one way we can do that is by repurposing our roadways... a day without cars allows us to envision a more sustainable world for more than just one day.” 

Each location will also feature additional entertainment like music, dance, art, bike programming, cultural activities, and educational workshops.

Where to find car free streets on April 23rd

  • Bronx, Roberto Clemente Plaza, 3rd Avenue, 148th Street to 149th Street

  • Bronx, Southbound Mosholu Parkway, Van Cortlandt Avenue East to Bainbridge Avenue

  • Brooklyn, Tompkins Avenue, Gates Avenue to Halsey Street (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

  • Manhattan, Avenue B, East 6th Street to East 14th Street (8 a.m to 8 p.m.)

  • Manhattan, Broadway, East 17th Street to West 42nd Street (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

  • Manhattan, Dyckman Street, Quisqueya Plaza to Dyckman Marina 

  • Manhattan, St. Nicholas Avenue, 181st Street to 190th Street (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

  • Queens, 34th Avenue, 69th Street to 94th Street (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

  • Staten Island, Minthorne Street, Bay Street to Victory Boulevard

While the event is just one day, Rodriguez noted that New York also needs to “make a serious impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions [and] promote clean public transportation” The NYC DOT has collaborated with 150 participating partners “to educate New Yorkers on the benefits of getting cars off the road for our communities, for public health, and for the environment.”

Want to know more? Get additional information on Car Free Earth Day and on the Open Streets program.


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