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U.N. General Assembly traffic: street closures, transit changes, and more

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Prepare for a traffic nightmare in Manhattan over the next week

Max Touhey

Prepare for a traffic nightmare in Midtown over the week: Thanks to upcoming UN General Assembly meetings—the session opens this week, and the big meetings happen from September 24 through 30—there are numerous street closures and traffic diversions throughout Manhattan.

The situation is expected to be so bad that the city has designated every weekday between September 23 and September 30 as a “gridlock alert day”—i.e., days when Manhattan’s streets are likely to be even more congested than normal. Last year, the slowest traffic day recorded in Manhattan’s central business district was the second day of the UN General Assembly, according to the DOT.

“The UN General Assembly sees some of Manhattan’s most congested days of the entire year, and we want to get the word out early to ask drivers to use alternatives,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “Drivers should leave their cars at home next week if they can—and try walking, taking mass transit, or getting on a bicycle.”

Basically, avoid Midtown, and take the subway or a bike—because even the buses in that area will be rerouted—if you must. But if you can’t avoid the area, what can you expect? Here’s what you need to know.

Street closures

While generally speaking, the immediate vicinity of the U.N. will bear the brunt of the traffic nightmare, it’ll cause street closures all along the east side of Manhattan and beyond.

These streets may be closed at the discretion of the NYPD from September 17 through September 30:

  • FDR Drive between Whitehall Street and Willis Avenue Bridge/RFK Bridge
  • Area bounded by 60th to 34th streets, and First to Third avenues
  • Area bounded by 54th to 48th streets, and First to Madison avenues
  • 6th Avenue between 50th Street and 59th Street
  • Grand Army Plaza between 58th Street and 60th Street
  • 5th Avenue between 56th Street and 63rd Street
  • Madison Avenue between 42nd Street and 58th Street
  • 76th and 77th streets
  • Park Avenue between 76th and 77th streets
  • FDR Drive Service Road between 48th and 49th streets
  • 76th and 77th streets between Madison and Park avenues
  • 61st Street between Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue
  • 59th Street between Seventh Avenue and Fifth Avenue
  • 58th Street between Broadway and Madison Avenue
  • 57th Street between Seventh Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 56th Street between 6th Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 54th and 55th streets between Seventh Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 53rd Street between Seventh Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 52nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Madison Avenue
  • 50th Street between Seventh Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 51st Street between Seventh Avenue and First Avenue
  • 48th and 49th streets between First Avenue and FDR Drive Service Road
  • 42nd Street between Seventh Avenue and FDR Drive
  • 34th Street between Seventh Avenue and FDR Drive

Traffic changes

In addition to street closures, there are traffic changes in store for the duration of the General Assembly. The NYPD has a day-to-day breakdown of how traffic will be affected by the meeting, with the area around the United Nations bearing the brunt of the changes. But many roads in Midtown and even as far south as lower Manhattan will have “managed access”—i.e. little access to members of the public—or will be closed to traffic entirely until the 30th. Prepare accordingly.

Bike and NYC Ferry changes

There are also changes in NYC Ferry service and available bike lanes throughout Midtown East for the duration of the General Assembly.

The DOT announced this week that temporary protected bike lanes on First and Second avenues, which had previously been closed during the UNGA, will be open to cyclists. On First Avenue, a 24-hour, temporary northbound lane will be in place between 40th and 49th streets (with a security checkpoint at 39th Street). On Second, a temporary southbound lane will go up between 57th and 41st streets, and it will be available only until around 9 p.m.

Citi Bike will offer a 50 percent discount on its three-day passes from September 23 through 30.

Additionally, NYC Ferry riders can expect changes in service for the duration of U.N. week, including the possible cancellation of boats on the Astoria, East River, Lower East Side, or Soundview routes—check the website or NYC Ferry’s Twitter feed for details.