NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Despite angering the MTA, the FDNY, and commuters across the city, New York’s new holiday traffic plan takes effect in Midtown Friday.
Vehicle traffic will be restricted on Fifth Avenue and in the Rockefeller Center area, so pedestrians have more room to move around during the holiday season.
City officials say it’s to help improve pedestrian safety as millions of people visit the area to see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and shop each year.
One lane of traffic will be reduced on each side of Fifth Avenue between 48th and 52nd streets.
There will be street and lane closures during peak pedestrian hours.
Side Street Closures: 49th and 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues will be open to pedestrians alone during the most congested hours. By default, these streets will be closed between 2 p.m. and midnight from Monday to Thursday, 1 p.m. and midnight on Friday, and 10 a.m. and midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.
5th Avenue: Movable barriers will be placed on the east and west sides of the streets on 5th Avenue between 48th and 52nd Streets, eliminating a lane of traffic on each side of the avenue to create more pedestrian space. Additionally, there will be no turns on 47th, 49th, or 51st Streets. Barriers will be put in place between 5 p.m. or earlier and midnight during the week, and between noon or earlier on weekends.
6th Avenue: Movable barriers may be placed on the east side of the street on 6th Avenue between 48th and 52nd Streets, eliminating one lane of traffic to create more pedestrian space. 6th Avenue will be monitored and barriers will be put in place or removed depending on crowd conditions.
Buses: MTA buses will bypass 48th to 52nd Streets.
Gerald Fitzgerald, president of the firefighters union, put out a statement Sunday saying he believes there will be increased citywide gridlock as a result of the changes — and that gridlock could affect emergency vehicles.
“The move to increase ‘pedestrian space’ surrounding Rockefeller Center is misguided and makes this city less safe – plain and simple. As it is, traffic is interfering with our firefighters’ abilities to reach the scene of a fire, but this new plan will have wide-felt repercussions in the form of traffic from river-to-river. We all want pedestrian safety, but a key component of safety for all is the ability for New York’s first responders to reach the scene of an emergency, and this is not the best way to ensure the safety of New York’s over 8-million residents and millions of holiday visitors,” he said.
The traffic change is expected to end on Jan. 1, 2020.