NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The United Nations General Assembly begins today and the Department of Transportation is asking commuters to keep their cars at home.
This week is the first time the 6-day event has been added to New York City’s Gridlock Alert days, and the DOT hopes a $500,000 multimedia campaign will help warn drivers about the coming traffic challenges.
The Department of Transportation says traffic speeds are slower during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations than during the 10 traditional Gridlock Alert days around the Holidays in November and December.
Police are expecting more than 150 motorcades, and drive times through parts of Manhattan may triple, reports CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
“It’s horrible, you can’t move,” said taxi driver Samuel Tetteh. “You never know when they’re gonna close the streets, so it makes the job and everybody uncomfortable.”
MORE INFO: NYC DOT Gridlock Alert Days Information
To keep more cars off the street next week, rideshare company Via is offering 50 percent off each additional rider within Manhattan. Citibike is offering a 50 percent discount on its three day pass.
“It’s so much faster to get around in other ways,” said cyclist John Scotto. “It’s all better for the whole community if we don’t drive.”
Other options being urged by the DOT include parking at Citi Field for a special $5 commuter rate and taking the 7 subway train into Manhattan. The entrance to the lot is on Roosevelt Avenue between 126th Street and Shea Road, and drivers should get there before noon on Mets game days to get the $5 rate.
Part of the reason for the traffic woes comes from the security logistics needed to handle the arrival of President Donald Trump and other world leaders to the United Nations and embassy locations around New York.
Though there’s been no direct threats made against the event, the security worries are so broad that the New York Police Department has considered how it would stop assassins armed with poison or killer drones, according to the Associated Press.
The NYPD’s main line of defense will be thousands of extra police officers flooding the streets as part of a carefully coordinated effort with the Secret Service and other federal and local law enforcement agencies to protect both the United Nations and Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
“Since the end of last year’s General Assembly, we’ve been planning how to best protect the various sites and all the people inside them, while also minimizing the impact on New Yorkers,” O’Neill said at recent news conference at a command center at police headquarters.
From Sept. 18 through Oct. 5, the NYPD will be maintaining possible closures at police discretion at these locations:
- FDR Drive between Whitehall Street and Willis Avenue Bridge/RFK Bridge
- Area bounded by 60th Street on the North, 34th Street on the South
- 1st Avenue on the East and 3rd Avenue on the West All Inclusive
- Area bounded by 54th Street on the North, 48th Street on the South, 1st Avenue
- On the East and Madison Avenue on the West All Inclusive
- 6th Avenue between 50th Street and 59th Street
- Grand Army Plaza between 58th Street and 60th Street
- 5th Avenue between 56th Street and 59th Street
- Madison Avenue between 42nd Street and 58th Street
- Madison Avenue between 76th Street and 77th Street
- Park Avenue between 76th Street and 77th Street
- FDR Drive Service Road between 48th Street and 49th Street
- 77th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue
- 76th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue
- 61st Street between 5th Avenue and Park Avenue
- 59th Street between 7th Avenue and 5th Avenue
- 58th Street between Broadway and Madison Avenue
- 57th Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
- 56th Street between 6th Avenue and 5th Avenue
- 55th Street between 7th Avenue and Madison Avenue
- 54th Street between 7th Avenue and Madison Avenue
- 53rd Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
- 52nd Street between 7th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 50th Street between 6th Avenue and FDR Drive
- 51st Street between 7th Avenue and 1st Avenue
- 49th Street between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive Service Road
- 48th Street between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive Service Road
- 42nd Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
- 34th Street between 7th Avenue and FDR Drive
- Little West Street between 1st Place and Battery Place
- Battery Place between 1st Place and Little West Street
- 1st Place between Battery Place and Little West Street
The 73rd Session of the General Assembly began on Sept. 18, but the higher-level meetings start Monday.
The security arsenal features police boats patrolling the East River near the U.N., aviation units overhead and teams of officers trained to respond to chemical, biological and other potential terror threats. About 50 city Department of Sanitation dump trucks filled with sand and 230 concrete barriers will be positioned at intersections and other strategic locations to guard against car or truck attacks like the one last year that killed eight people on a bike path in Lower Manhattan.
Police said other preparations have included consulting with British authorities about the poisoning of a former Russian spy there earlier this year by way of a weapons-grade nerve agent. British officials say the attack was carried out by Russian operatives.
Police have also studied an attack on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last month using drones rigged with explosives.
Maduro said this past week that he may have to suspend a planned trip to the United Nations because of concerns his opponents would try to kill him if he travels abroad. But the NYPD is expecting more than 200 other world leaders to show up, all needing to move around the city in motorcades with police escorts.
Those foreign dignitaries flying state aircraft into New York’s Kennedy Airport will be greeted with strict enforcement of security rules requiring the planes to depart within two hours of touching down. The crackdown comes after the indictment of an airport supervisor on charges he took bribes to let Qatar and other countries park their planes overnight during the gathering.
Trump is expected to arrive for a rare hometown visit and a possible stay at Trump Tower, his longtime home he has rarely visited since becoming president. Outside the skyscraper, police plan to set up a series of barriers and security checkpoints.
Police said they expect more than 60 demonstrations outside the United Nations, foreign consulates and Trump Tower at various times during the week.
Authorities said they hadn’t calculated the cost of the security operation. But they said there’s been a $20 to $30 million bill for past General Assemblies, and that the federal government covers most of it.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)