UN General Assembly Causing Annual Traffic Headaches On East Side
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Law enforcement agencies proved last week with Pope Francis in town that they know how to maintain security and keep things moving.
They’re doing it again this week with President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and more than 160 others convening for the United Nations General Assembly.
Still, Manhattan’s East Side could get congested. Driving, walking and riding a bike could be extremely difficult.
As CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported, diplomats’ motorcades were seen taking over entire lanes of an already-congested Second Avenue on Monday morning, as drivers and police escorts chauffeuring world leaders around the United Nations. Police officers and Secret Service were stationed on almost every corner.
Meanwhile, sanitation trucks usually used to spread salt acted as makeshift barriers, almost creating a fortress-like access to the U.N.
There are ID checkpoints and closures all across the East Side, mostly from East 42nd to East 49th streets between First and Second avenues. There are intermittent closures as well, stretching as far west as Madison Avenue. In some places, only one lane is open to traffic.
“It’s a litte hectic,” one woman said of getting around. “It is. You try to remember to allow extra time.”
Even the president joked about the post-papal gridlock.
“It is good to be in New York,” he said at a Democratic National Committee LGBT fundraising gala Sunday night. “Although I do apologize. This week’s rough for you guys.”
Truck drivers were trying to get in and out of the area as early as possible Monday to avoid the worst of the gridlock, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
“If you’re still in Midtown by 7:30, you’ve got a long day ahead of you,” one driver said.
Rob, who delivers milk to the United Nations building, said he expected to be delayed by security.
“They check us out, and then they check the whole truck,” he said. “They open all the doors.”
He said it usually takes him 45 minutes to deliver milk to the U.N., but he estimates it will take him at least an hour to get checked out and into the building Monday.
Meanwhile, one taxi driver said he doesn’t see any extra business as a result of the General Assembly.
“They don’t take taxis,” he said. “They’ve got their limos and their way of doing business. For us, it’s just the ordinary people.”
It’s not just cabbies, delivery drivers and other motorists who are frustrated. Spiro, a coffee cart vendor at East 40th Street and First Avenue, told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck that between the pope and the U.N., he has lost thousands of dollars in sales in the last week.
“Half my business was down,” he said.
“They close the streets. There’s no traffic flowing. People are scared to drive in the city.”
But there are some who say they are benefiting. Blue Olive Market on East 44th Street is among the businesses capitalizing on all the foot traffic.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Dan Nistorescu, the restaurant’s general manager. “I can tell you that we got an increase in business, like about 10 percent, especially on Friday and Saturday.”
Meanwhile, people who live nearby are counting the days until they can have their neighborhood.
“Ready for it to be over, I would say,” one woman said.