Mayor’s Office Announces Rockefeller Center Pedestrian Space Expansion for Holiday Season

Rockefeller Center will see massive crowds throughout the holiday season, prompting city officials to expand pedestrian protections around the area. Image Credit: CityLand

Elected officials have previously called attention to dangerous crowd sizes in the area during the holiday season. On November 22, 2019, the Mayor’s Office announced a temporary expansion of the pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall for the holiday season. The area between 5th and 6th Avenues from 48th to 52nd Streets will be affected.

Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall are two of New York City’s most popular holiday attractions, which in past years have drawn in dangerously large crowds that spill over into the streets and into traffic. The conditions surrounding Rockefeller Center have gotten so crowded that in previous years, elected officials like Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Keith Powers have advocated for street closures and an expansion of pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center.

Starting November 29, 2019, in anticipation of the increased foot traffic for visitors around Rockefeller Center during the holiday season, the City will institute full or partial street closures using movable barriers to protect pedestrians and provide more room for crowds.

For side streets, 49th and 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues will be open to pedestrians only during the most congested hours. These streets will be closed between 2 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to midnight on Friday and and 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

On 5th Avenue between 48th and 52nd Streets movable barriers will be placed to eliminate a lane of traffic on each side of the street to provide more pedestrian space. Barriers will be in place between 5 p.m. or earlier to midnight during the week and from noon or earlier on weekends. Additionally, there will be no turns allowed on 5th Avenue on 47th, 49th or 51st Streets.

On 6th Avenue between 48th and 52nd Streets, movable barriers may be placed on the east side of the street to remove one lane of traffic. The crowd conditions will be monitored to determine whether the barrier will be put in place. Additionally, MTA buses will bypass 48th to 52nd Streets.

The NYPD and the Department of Transportation will further monitor the area around the clock to determine if additional closures or barriers are necessary given weather conditions and crowd size. Historically, even during the busier holiday season, pedestrian traffic still drops substantially during weekday business hours and poor weather conditions. By using timed closures and monitoring current conditions, the NYPD and Department of Transportation can add or remove pedestrian space as needed with minimal disruptions to transit.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is New York City’s crown jewel during the holidays, and we’re always excited to welcome the world to see it—but when the world descends on Rockefeller Center for a month on end, additional tools are clearly necessary so that our Vision Zero agenda stays in place. This historic announcement pedestrianizing Rockefeller Center will keep holiday revelers safe while ensuring minimal disruption to the rest of the life of the city.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer stated, “Rockefeller Center is the most heavily visited site in all the five boroughs during the holiday season. While this is a good problem to have, it does require increased and proactive planning for the crush of pedestrians that descend upon the space. I am pleased that the Mayor and the DOT have headed mine and Council Member Powers’ calls to increase pedestrian space in this area. It is my hope that this likely-successful pilot during the holiday season can lead us to a year-round pedestrianization of the space.”

Council Member Keith Powers stated, “Earlier this year, I asked that the City reimagine how we handle the immense congestion surrounding Rockefeller Center by pedestrianizing its nearby streets. Today’s announcement provides much-needed relief. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a must-see for visitors and residents alike, and now there will be more space to enjoy the sights and move through the area. This pilot will give us a sense of how full pedestrianization can be achieved all year round, and demonstrates the value of thinking differently about how we use our streets.”


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)

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