NEW YORK (WPIX)—Traffic is always bad when the UN General Assembly is underway, but this year, it appears that the situation is even worse. That's why the NYPD and New York City Department of Transportation are advising people to take public transportation rather than drive, and to stay away from Midtown East to avoid congestion.
A major culprit behind the worse-than-usual traffic snarl is a world figure often blamed for worries of even greater magnitude, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
An encampment of NYPD, Secret Service and US military personnel surround the rear entrance and are spread out along three blocks on either side of it. PIX 11 News counted at least two dozen security vehicles in the area around the hotel's rear entrance around 8:30 Monday morning, and dozens of uniformed and non-uniformed security police dogs were there with the cars, SUVs, limos, vans and ambulances.
PIX 11 News cameras also found that at almost every corner from 51st Street to 36th Street and across five avenues -- a 70-square block area -- police checkpoints or cars were posted in the early morning hours. Those numbers swell throughout the day as the General Assembly session gets underway. Many streets where for years there had never been a police or Secret Service posting visible during the General Assembly had law enforcement members from one or both of those agencies there Monday morning.
During the week of the General Assembly, there is typically also a significant uniformed presence outside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. It's the hotel where US presidents usually stay when they visit New York. A large assemblage of security vehicles was in place there Monday, but a fortress-like setting is expected there Wednesday and Thursday, when President Barack Obama arrives for an overnight visit in preparation for his address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
The General Assembly is the policymaking branch of the United Nations and is comprised of leaders from 192 countries. Each country receives equal representation (one vote) in the General Assembly, which serves as a forum to discuss international issues.
While the Assembly is in session, the NYPD highly recommends the use of mass transit as an alternative to driving. According to a recent Department of Transportation study, during the General Assembly, traffic moves at an average speed of 8mph.
The United Nations is located at 42nd Street and 1st Avenue. The PIX 11 News studio is located just one block away on 2nd Avenue.
For the first week of the United Nations General Assembly, the following streets will be completely closed to traffic beginning Saturday, September 18th at 2 p.m. until 11: 59 p.m. Friday, September 24th:
49th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue
50th Street from Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue
Please note: Trucks and other large vehicles will not be able to access:
Park Avenue from 48th Street to 52nd Street
Lexington Avenue 48th Street to 52nd Street
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 20th, 2010
The following streets will have one traffic lane dedicated to emergency vehicles for the duration of the General Assembly:
42nd Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue
57th Street from 2nd Avenue to 5th Avenue