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Some drivers, public transit users upset with city’s plan to shut down Rockefeller Center streets

Posted: 6:55 PM, Nov 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-22 18:55:43-05

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — Because crowds of tourists and holiday revelers can become very thick in and around Rockefeller Center — a retail, entertainment and office hub — the city's Department of Transportation is closing off the area to vehicles for the holiday season.

The move is designed to make Rockefeller Center safer, traffic-wise, for the thousands of people who pass through the area every minute.

In fact, some 800,000 people filter through Rockefeller Center every day during the holiday season. That's more than the entire populations of Cleveland and New Orleans combined.

The move is generally getting high marks from pedestrians, but failing grades with drivers, who are outnumbered in the neighborhood significantly during the holidays. Still, there are some exceptions to how one might assume how drivers and pedestrians assess the newly announced traffic changes.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the changes on Friday morning. As word spread throughout the day, the news added to the frustration and hot tempers that drivers can already have on regular days passing through Rock Center.

"That sucks!" one delivery driver exclaimed, upon learning the news. Another said, simply, "No good, no good."

Specifically, the new traffic pattern will close 49th and 50th Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, to vehicles from the day after Thanksgiving until after New Year's Day.

Also, the far west and far east lanes of Fifth Avenue will close, as well as the easternmost lane of Sixth Avenue.

The changes won't be in effect all of the time, however. They will mostly apply during the evening rush and on weekends.

49th and 50th Streets will be shut Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight, and Fridays, 1 p.m. to midnight, as well as Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to midnight.

Fifth Avenue's lanes will be restricted Monday through Friday, from around 5 p.m. to Midnight, and on the weekends from noon to midnight.

Also, no turns will be allowed on 47th, 49th, or 51st Streets from around 5 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, and from around noon to midnight on weekends.

MTA buses will have to bypass 48th to 52nd Streets.

"That makes it nice," said Adriane Coppia, a tourist from Boston. "Like a pedestrian street."

Another pedestrian, Ann Nary, visiting from Brazil, said, "Less traffic. It's better.

Michelle Morales, another pedestrian, called the traffic restriction, "Perfect. Perfect."

Every tourist gave approval. However, among some locals, the change evoked some surprising reactions.

Jacob Ferrante, who works in a delivery truck, said that while it will be a hassle for his business, "It's worth it for the tree, though. It's great to see."

William Becker lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and was walking through Rockefeller Center on Friday afternoon. He said that he doesn't drive, but still, he said, the changes are "ridiculous."

"My cabs are definitely going to be delayed," he continued. "My fare is going to go up."

Meanwhile, Andy Byford, the MTA NYC Transit president, registered his disapproval. He said, in part, in a statement on Friday, “This unilateral decision flies in the face of the work that the MTA has done with NYC DOT to speed up bus times, decrease dwell times and increase ridership across our system.”

The traffic changes begin on November 29 and run through at least January 1.