The infamous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran may be gone, but the annual East Side traffic mess will return for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, which starts Monday.
Up to 200 leaders from around the world are expected, including President Barack Obama.
“I don’t plan to come to the city at all,” said a taxi passenger named Ricia, who was waiting at a light on 3rd Avenue and 42nd Street. Most of those who work and live here don’t have a choice.
UNGA kicks into high gear Sunday evening, when First Avenue between 42nd and 48th Streets is shut down to traffic. But the tunnel “underpass” will remain open. Several side streets (44th, 45th, and 46th) will be closed to traffic, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
On Monday, September 23rd, one or two traffic lanes will be set aside for emergency vehicles and motorcades on specific thoroughfares. The affected blocks are 42nd Street, from 1st to 5th Avenues, 57th Street, from 2nd to 5th Avenues, and 2nd Avenue—from 41st to 57th Streets. There will also be intermittent closures on the FDR Drive, south of 63rd Street.
“The police department has been doing this so long,” said retired NYPD deputy chief, John Cutter, “they really have it down.”
But things will really get intense Monday evening, when President Obama arrives in town. Whenever his motorcade moves, expect to be caught in a “frozen zone” if you’re on his route.
This will apply to bicycle riders and pedestrians, too.
“You also have Secret Service, the State Department, coming in from all over the country,” said John Cutter.
This year, we won’t be hearing any inflammatory statements from former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who railed against Israel, denied the Holocaust ever happened, and questioned the validity of the 9/11 attacks. His successor, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, will speak at the United Nations Tuesday, the same day as President Obama.
Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, facing world criticism for using chemical weapons on his own people, is not expected at the General Assembly meetings. But Sam Schwartz, who writes the “Gridlock Sam” column for the New York Daily News, said we can probably expect some protests. “A minister is coming from Syria,” he noted to PIX 11. He also told us the gridlock will likely spread to the West Side Tuesday evening, when President Obama is visiting the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue. That’s where former President, Bill Clinton, is holding his annual conference for the Clinton Global Initiative.
Expect Tuesday to be the worst day of next week, if you’re traveling in Manhattan.