NEW YORK - Pumpkins are prominent along Fifth Avenue in midtown, but soon the fall colors will be replaced by twinkly lights and snowflakes, as the sidewalks fill with Holiday shoppers.
“It’s ridiculous around here, around the holiday seasons,” said one person.
The Transportation Department says as many as 20,000 pedestrians pack the sidewalks by Rockefeller Center during the shopping season, so City Councilman Keith Powers and borough president Gale Brewer asked the DOT for a safe way to contain the crowds.
The agency responded that it will test what it calls a “Holiday Pedestrian Congestion Mitigation Plan” on Fifth Avenue from 48th to 51st streets.
From just after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, the sidewalk on each side of the street will be expanded to the adjacent traffic lane, by placing concrete barriers in the street, giving pedestrians 40 percent more space.
However, buses will have one lane instead of two, and all other traffic will be squeezed into two lanes instead of three.
“I think it’s a great idea because it really is horrible and it’s dangerous because if anything happens there’s just nowhere to go and it scares me,” said one person.
"It’s quite difficult getting through the traffic area at that time of the year so yeah I think it’s a great idea,” said another.
Others said that if the changes are made, it won't be such a Merry Christmas for bus riders.
“These buses come down here every morning and every afternoon, people got to get to work, there’s enough people on the sidewalks and everywhere else, there’s no need to be on the streets,” said one person.
But hours after the DOT letter was released, Mayor de Blasio put the brakes on the pedestrian plan, at least for now. He said the agency spoke too soon in announcing the plan's approval.
“It was accidental. Maybe someone was trying to further their own agenda. It was premature. It had not gone through the process and reviewed. It was not signed off on by city hall. We are gonna look at that. It might be a good idea. But, it is just premature," the Mayor said in a statement.
The DOT is now acknowledging the pedestrian plan has not been finalized. It says it's working with the NYPD to find a solution to the holiday crowds that will soon be building along Fifth Avenue.