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Firefighters Union Says Increased Pedestrian Space Around Rockefeller Center 'Makes This City Less Safe'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The FDNY-Uniformed Firefighter Association is criticizing the decision to shut down streets around Rockefeller Center for pedestrians during the holidays.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city would expand pedestrian space in the area and close streets to traffic, saying the increasing number of people in the area is "creating a real safety issue."

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.

RELATED STORY: Traffic Restrictions, Partial Street Closures Set For Rockefeller Center During Holiday Season

Frank Dwyer, the FDNY deputy commissioner for public information, put out a statement later Sunday saying, "As has happened every year during the holiday season, the Department will work closely with NYPD and DOT to ensure both the safety of New Yorkers and visitors, and that our members can quickly respond to emergencies in and around Rockefeller Center."

But Fitzgerald is not the only official who isn't a fan of the closures.

NYC Transit President Andy Byford said he's disappointed that the plan hurts bus riders and he's disappointed the MTA wasn't consulted.

"While the MTA fully supports safe pedestrian access for New Yorkers and visitors during this busy holiday time, we are disappointed that the plan put forward by the Mayor gives no priority to MTA buses and ignores the needs of bus customers," his statement read in part.

The closure will run from Nov. 29 to just after Jan. 1.

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